CLEARWATER — The day after he was named Big East rookie of the year, USF freshman Jimmy Herget pitched into the eighth inning, leading the Bulls to a 5-2 win against Rutgers in the opening round of the conference baseball tournament at Bright House Field.
The game started at 10:23 Wednesday night due to a rain delay earlier in the day and ended after 1 a.m.
On a day where the top two seeds lost their opening games in the double-elimination tournament, the fourth-seeded Bulls advanced to play eighth-seeded Connecticut at 8 tonight for a spot in Saturday's semifinals. USF swept UConn on the road in the regular season, winning two one-run games and another in the 15th inning.
Rutgers plays in an elimination game today against top seed Louisville at 5. Third-seeded Pittsburgh and seventh-seeded Notre Dame also won in Wednesday's opening-round games.
Rutgers had four hits in the first three innings against USF, but Herget was able to get out of trouble and trailed just 1-0 on Brian O'Grady's sacrifice fly in the second. USF tied the game in the fourth, when Jimmy Falla reached base on a 12-pitch walk, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Chris Norton's double.
USF rallied for three runs and the lead in the fifth, with all three coming with two outs. Freshman Levi Borders doubled to left-center but was held up at third on Nik Alfonso's second single of the game. With two outs, the Bulls got three straight RBI singles from Alex Mendez, James Ramsay and Falla, good for a 4-1 lead. The throw home from leftfield was ahead of Mendez, but the ball came loose on the tag, allowing the run to score.
Ramsay came through with another two-out single in the seventh, scoring Alfonso, who reached on his third single and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Teaf.
Rutgers threatened in the eighth after USF loaded the bases with three walks, but reliever Lawrence Pardo got O'Grady to pop out foul to catcher.
Rutgers had the bases loaded in the ninth and scored on a fielder's choice, but Chad Taylor got two infield popups with the tying run at the plate to end the game.
"The other guys didn't pitch great, but they did enough to get out of innings," USF coach Lelo Prado said. "It's USF baseball this year. They're trying to kill me, and they're doing a great job of doing it. It's USF baseball. Now let's get back and get a good night's sleep."
UConn 3, Louisville 2 (12): The top-seeded Cardinals saw their 16-game win streak snapped in 12 innings to the eighth-seeded Huskies.
The Cardinals, who swept the three-game regular-season series against the Huskies by a combined score of 17-1, were shut out for 11 innings after leading 2-1 in the first.
UConn scored with two outs in the 12th when centerfielder Billy Ferriter's fourth hit of the night brought in leftfielder Eric Yavarone. Yavarone led off the inning with an infield single and advanced on a sacrifice bunt.
Three Huskies pitchers shut down a Cardinals lineup that was hitting .296 this season. Starter Carson Cross retired 16 straight at one point. David Mahoney retired all seven batters he faced to earn the win, and Pat Butler got the final two outs for the save.
"All week long, we preached that all you had to do was make (the tournament). You need a chance," Ferriter said. "We came on strong with the bats."
Louisville plays the loser of Wednesday's late game between USF and Rutgers at 5 today in the double-elimination tournament. UConn faces the winner of the game at 8 for a spot in Saturday's semifinals.
No. 7 NOTRE DAME 5, No. 2 SETON HALL 0: Notre Dame senior Adam Norton threw a complete-game, beating the Pirates for a third time in less than a year.
Norton helped the Irish eliminate Seton Hall in last year's tournament, and he started a 3-2 Notre Dame win in March. Starter Jon Prosinski kept the Pirates close Wednesday, but Notre Dame got a key hit in the sixth inning, a two-run home run by designated hitter Blaise Lezynski.
Seton Hall came in winners of 15 of 16, but now its place on the NCAA tournament bubble could be in question if it loses today's 10 a.m. elimination game against St. John's.
No. 3 PITT 10, No. 6 ST. JOHN'S 2: The Panthers pulled away after a 70-minute rain delay in the fifth inning, turning a 4-2 game into an easy win behind Ethan Mildren's pitching.
Mildren, who threw 75 pitches before the delay, pitched four innings of no-hit scoreless baseball after the rain. The Panthers added three runs in the fifth and three more in the eighth, advancing to play Notre Dame at 1 p.m. today for a spot in semifinals.
Pittsburgh came in with a four-game losing streak, having been swept by Louisville last weekend to fall out of a first-place tie. Coach Joe Jordano cited the Red Storm's clutch hitting with runners in scoring position, starting with a four-run second.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected]