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Bulls blasted in just one inning

A 10-run first sends Houston ahead 19-6 and finishes USF's season.

Regrettable? Forgettable? Unbelievable?

How about despicable.

How bad was South Florida's performance against Houston on Friday at the Conference USA baseball tournament? Houston cleanup hitter Tyson Schweitzer was 2-for-2 with two doubles and four RBI in the first inning.

The Cougars sent 16 batters to the plate, scored 10 runs on seven hits and six walks in the top of the first and rolled to a 19-6 win against the Bulls at Florida Power Park.

"We didn't have a chance from the start," said Bulls coach Eddie Cardieri, whose team was eliminated. "We felt like if we could win this game we could win the tournament, and then from the top of the first inning we basically had no chance. That was frustrating. There's not much you can do about it. Teams have games like that and it's just unfortunate for us that we had that happen when it did."

The Bulls (29-29) were so deep in the hole in the first that Houston opted to change its starting pitcher during the end of its 35-minute at-bat. By rule, Shane Nance had to face at least one batter in the bottom of the first before the Cougars could go to reliever Nick Torina (1-0).

"When you throw up that much offense early, you can do some things with shuffling some guys," Houston coach Rayner Noble said.

The fact that 19 of USF's 28 regular-season wins came at the hands of their top two pitchers (John Gorham and John Vigue) only proved how deep the drop-off was to Friday's starter, Jason Hubbard, and anyone else for that matter.

Hubbard (0-3) had pitched well in his past few outings but entered the game with an 0-2 record and a 4.83 ERA. The Cougars were waiting. Brandon Caraway led off with a single, then came a walk, a single, a double, an out, a walk, another single and another double.

Junior left-hander Shannon Royal replaced Hubbard, got an out and seemed to have second baseman Sean Allen picked off trying to steal second. But he was called for a balk, a run scored and the snowball kept coming. Royal gave up four more runs as the Bulls plummeted deeper into the abyss.

"There's always a turning point and I don't know where the turning point was in that inning because there were so many things that happened," Cardieri said. "But the balk certainly played into it because they scored several runs after that. I never knew Shannon had a good enough move to have a balk."

Houston, the tournament's top seed and ranked No. 8 in the country by Baseball America, plays North Carolina Charlotte at 12:30 p.m. today. If the 49ers win, they move on to Sunday's final. If the Cougars win, they play the 49ers again at 7:30 p.m.

UAB 10, SOUTHERN MISS 6: Parity continued to reign as another top seed was bounced out of the tournament.

After ripping No. 2 seed Tulane 11-4 in Wednesday's opening round, No. 7 UAB continued its run by knocking off No. 3 Southern Mississippi to stay alive in the losers' bracket.

The Blazers (28-31) face Cincinnati (34-24) at 9 a.m. to opentoday's semifinal round. A loss will bring UAB's season to an end. A win will force a second game against the Bearcats at 4 p.m.

"If you look back, the best team does not win the tournament," UAB coach Larry Giangrosso said. "It's who's playing the hottest."

Scoreless going into the bottom of the third, UAB buried the Golden Eagles (32-26) in one avalanche of runs. The Blazers hammered three doubles and three singles, stole two bases, walked twice and capitalized on a throwing error to score seven runs and chase starter Stephen Castleman (1-2).

"I haven't had too good a year hitting this year but I felt like I was seeing the ball pretty good in the tournament," said third baseman Keith Barnes, who had a key bases-clearing double in the inning.