In the span of 10 surreal days, the USF baseball team has transformed its season from humdrum to the brink of historic.
Unbeaten in American Athletic Conference tournament play entering Saturday’s semifinals, the sixth-seeded Bulls rallied from a 10-run afternoon loss to No. 2-seeded Tulane with a 7-1 late-night romp at Clearwater’s BayCare Ballpark. The win propelled the Bulls into today’s noon title game against rival UCF, where an automatic NCAA Tournament berth will be at stake.
USF (27-27), which lost nine of 11 in one March stretch, seeks the program’s first conference tournament title since 1995, when it was in the Metro Conference. UCF (31-29) advanced with a 2-1 victory Saturday evening against top-seeded East Carolina, which had defeated the Knights earlier that morning.
In Saturday’s nightcap, USF built a 7-0 lead after four innings en route to its second win in three days against the Green Wave.
The first occurred Thursday, when redshirt freshman right-hander (and Springstead High alumnus) Jack Jasiak struck out a tournament-record 12 in a 5-0 triumph.
Redshirt freshman leadoff batter Carmine Lane highlighted Saturday night’s early surge with a two-run home run in the second — his second of the day — to give the Bulls a 3-0 lead. USF added three more in the third, two via wild pitches. Riley Hogan’s leadoff homer in the fourth pushed the advantage to 7-0.
Right-handed starter Brad Lord, a sophomore who entered the tournament with a 5.26 ERA, struck out a career-best eight in six-plus scoreless innings, allowing four hits and walking only one. Reliever Orion Kerkering, barely used in the tournament entering Saturday, allowed a run on three hits over the last three innings for the save.
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