CLEARWATER — Entering Wednesday's game against second-seeded Cincinnati, USF had momentum, with four straight wins against Notre Dame, and opportunity, with two of the top three seeds in the Big East tournament already eliminated.
But the sixth-seeded Bulls didn't have any of the intensity they had shown the night before, so coach Lelo Prado was worried long before the Bearcats cruised to an 11-1 victory in seven innings at Bright House Field.
"I knew we were in trouble in the locker room," Prado said. "For us to win, we have to play with great intensity, great enthusiasm. I don't know how you don't bring it today, but that's been our season."
So while Cincinnati earned a spot in Friday's semifinals, USF (30-26) faces seventh-seeded West Virginia (35-20) in an elimination game tonight at 7, needing another two wins Friday just to get to Saturday's championship game.
"Our backs are against the wall now, and we have to see how we perform," said senior Joey Angelberger, who had one of USF's six hits.
All eight games in the tournament have been decided by at least six runs, with plenty of upsets along the way. USF entered the fifth tied 1-1 with Cincinnati (38-19), then things fell apart.
Bearcats centerfielder Tony Campana, who led off the game with a triple and scored, opened the fifth with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly. A two-run homer by Mike Spina made it 4-1, and the Bearcats added three runs in the sixth. Campana's two-out grand slam in the seventh invoked a 10-run, seven-inning mercy rule.
"They hit DT," Prado said of junior starter Daniel Thomas, who gave up nine hits and eight runs, five earned. "Early in the game, we didn't do our job offensively. We had chances."
Cincinnati and Louisville have clinched spots in Friday's semifinals, and four teams play today for the remaining spots. Seton Hall and Villanova meet in an elimination game at 4 p.m., then USF freshman Randy Fontanez (4-3, 3.35) gets the start against West Virginia.
Wednesday's four games drew 2,693, up from 2,219 on Tuesday.
SETON HALL 12, ST. JOHN'S 6: The top-seeded Red Storm, having lost 12-0 to eighth-seeded Villanova, gave up nine runs off four pitchers in the seventh for a humbling elimination. St. John's is expected to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
LOUISVILLE 14, VILLANOVA 3: The Cardinals tagged five pitchers for 16 hits, and Big East co-player of the year Chris Dominguez hit his 19th home run. In two games, the top five hitters in the Louisville lineup are a combined 24-for-48, with 18 RBIs.
WEST VA. 13, NOTRE DAME 6: The Mountaineers took an 8-1 lead in the first two innings, getting a grand slam from Jedd Gyorko.