Second-seeded USF was greeted Wednesday morning at the American Athletic Conference tournament by a bright sky and bracket poised to burst.
Yet on a day the Bulls (32-19-1) could've made real noise in this eight-team event, their bats elicited nary a peep. Three Wichita State hitters limited USF to seven hits and one earned run in a 4-2 Shockers triumph at Spectrum Field.
A day after top-seeded Houston's 11-6 loss to No. 8 Tulane, the Bulls joined the Cougars in the losers' bracket, where they were set to face Cincinnati or Connecticut late Wednesday afternoon on an adjacent field. The updated bracket can be seen here.
"It's the first time in a long time the offense kind of struggled a little bit," said Bulls coach Billy Mohl, whose team entered with a .297 average. "But you know what, we've got another game this afternoon and they'll bounce back."
Equally off his game Wednesday was left-handed ace Shane McClanahan, who reached nearly 40 pitches in the first inning, when he walked Ross Cadena with the bases loaded to score the No. 7-seeded Shockers' first run.
McClanahan (5-7) threw 110 pitches in only five innings of work, scattering a run on five hits while striking out six and walking five.
"I thought he was average at best," Mohl said.
USF tied the score in the bottom of the second on SS Coco Montes' two-out RBI-double, but the Bulls' offense stagnated from there. Shockers left-handed reliever Keylan Killgore entered in the third and allowed no earned runs over the next six innings, striking out seven.
Wichita State (35-19-1) added two more runs in the seventh on No. 3 hitter Alec Bohm's two-run double, and got an RBI-single from leadoff man Luke Ritter in the eighth to take a 4-2 lead.
Meantime, USF's No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters — Duke Stunkel Jr., David Villar and Joe Genord — went a combined 1-for-11. Montes finished 2-for-3, collecting both the Bulls' RBIs including a run-scoring single in the seventh.
"We've been in this (situation) before," Mohl said. "We've lost a lot of first games and come back and have won the next two, so that's nothing new to this club."