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USF wins doubleheader to stay alive in AAC tourney

The Bulls get complete games of nine and seven innings from Collin Sullivan and Alec Wisely, respectively
JUCO transfer Alec Wisely struck out nine over seven innings in USF's 13-0 rout of Connecticut on Thursday. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
JUCO transfer Alec Wisely struck out nine over seven innings in USF's 13-0 rout of Connecticut on Thursday. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
Published May 24, 2018

Its American Athletic Conference tournament hopes flat-lining, USF's baseball team has spent the past 30 or so hours reviving itself with plain ol' CPR.

Clutch Pitching and Resolve.

Needing back-to-back wins on a humid Clearwater day to remain alive, the No. 2-seeded Bulls (35-19-1) got complete games (of varying lengths) from right-handers Collin Sullivan and Alec Wisely, not to mention complete proficiency from their batting order.

The result was a 7-2 triumph against Wichita State; followed by a seven-inning, 13-0 rout of Connecticut; at Robin Roberts Field.

USF, which lost its opener in the double-elimination tournament to Wichita State on Wednesday morning, faces the Huskies in a loser-leave-town rematch Friday at 10 a.m. at Spectrum Field. Toss in Wednesday evening's 9-4 win against Cincinnati, and the Bulls have managed three tournament triumphs in about 20 hours.

They previously hadn't won two games in a conference tournament since 2012.

"We've got a special group," first-year coach Billy Mohl said. "We got the monkey off our back. We've got a bunch of fighters in that dugout. … I love this team."

In Thursday's first contest, Sullivan tossed the team's second nine-inning complete game of the year, scattering five hits in a 7-2 triumph against WSU. Only 11 days earlier in Wichita, he had failed to get out of the first inning in a game that ended in a 9-9 tie.

"This time, he was throwing curve ball, slider, changeup, everything for strikes," said Mohl, who watched Sullivan strike out seven and walk three over 124 pitches. "He was really good."

The Bulls' normal Sunday starter, Sullivan hadn't worked more than six innings in a game all year, and said he hadn't tossed a nine-inning complete game since at least the 10th grade.

"There was a little bit of a rock in the beginning of my delivery," he said. "I've shortened that up and it's helped me keep more balance going to the plate, and helped me going straight forward instead of falling off to the sides."

Wisely, a junior college transfer, did his darndest to upstage his sophomore peer in the second game, scattering five hits over seven innings while striking out nine and walking none.

Meantime, his offense collected 13 hits, with Joe Genord and former local prep stars Chris Chatfield (Spoto) and Carson Ragsdale (Bishop McLaughlin) homering. Chatfield's three-run homer to right field highlighted a five-run sixth inning.

The Bulls totaled 25 hits over Thursday's two games. SS Coco Montes led the way, finishing 5-for-10 with three RBIs and two doubles.

But Thursday was about a pair of pitchers who preserved USF's bullpen for the tournament's critical final stretch.

"Those two were incredible," Mohl said. "I mean, two complete games when our backs were against the wall to save the bullpen, I'm really, really proud of those two guys."