After consecutive walk-off triumphs spanning 19 total innings in the first two days of the American Athletic Conference tournament, USF had no more drama to muster Saturday.
Turned out, the top-seeded Bulls' final walk-off was with the runner-up trophy in tow.
On an overcast afternoon, the Bulls managed only three hits off Tulsa ace and tournament MVP Emily Watson in a 4-1 loss before an announced USF Softball Stadium crowd of 604. The tournament crown was the third in a row for Tulsa (32-23), the coaches' preseason favorite to win the league but the sixth seed entering the weekend.
USF (38-21), seeking its first conference tournament championship since 2013, learns its postseason destiny during Sunday's NCAA Tournament selection show at 10 p.m. on ESPN2.
"Any time you leave it up to the committee it's a crap shoot," said Bulls coach Ken Eriksen, whose team entered the tournament 42nd in the RPI.
"But our body of work…let's put it this way, it would be the crime of the century since what's-his-name robbed whatever and fell out of a plane. Yeah, that would be bad if the University of South Florida's not in it."
The Bulls, who needed 12 innings to defeat Connecticut in Thursday night's quarterfinals and a seventh-inning, two-out RBI-single by Samantha Worrell to edge Memphis in Friday's semifinals, dug itself a 3-0 hole Saturday as the Golden Hurricane collected 10 hits.
Tulsa (32-23) touched Bulls freshman RHP Georgina Corrick for a run off two walks and two hits in the first, then chased her after collecting four consecutive hits in a two-run third for a 3-0 lead. Corrick had worked 8 2/3 innings in Thursday's 2-1 win against No. 8-seeded UConn.
"These are 18- and 19-year-old guys, to ask that much of them in a short period of time, that's a big turnaround," Eriksen said. "(Corrick) is a baby still. … A couple of years from now, you could see Georg being a guy you could ride a little bit, maybe two or three days in a row. But right now, freshman, there's no sense."
By contrast, Watson, a senior who allowed one earned run in 21 tournament innings, struck out eight and walked none in an 88-pitch gem.
"It's like going into hockey. You got a hot goalie and holy smokes, what are you gonna do?" Eriksen said.
"No matter how good your team is, you can't get the puck in the net, right? Their guy was hot, and their hitters were hot."