What a relief.
After losing seven straight, USF baseball emerged from its slump to beat the Memphis Tigers Friday and Saturday. In addition to snapping their skid, the Bulls’ 9-5 win Friday secured a berth in this week’s Conference USA Tournament.
“It was a big, big relief to get that monkey off our back,” USF coach Eddie Cardieri said.
USF scored five runs in the fifth inning Friday to go up by three and didn’t look back after that. A slew of base hits (12) and back-to-back RBI doubles from Devin Ivany and Travis Brown in the decisive fifth pushed the Bulls far enough away to defeat the Tigers and get into the C-USA Tournament.
USF, which is seeded sixth in the tournament, will be facing off against host Tulane,which is seeded No. 3. Tulane (38-22-1, 20-6-1 in C-USA) and USF have not yet played this season, but will face each other in the fourth game Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Turchin Stadium in New Orleans.
The Bulls cemented that bid Saturday, when on Senior Day at Red McEwen Field, USF scored seven runs in the bottom of the fourth to win 10-3 and take the conference series away from the Memphis Tigers, 2-1.
“It just feels good to play well,” Cardieri said. “If we can just keep building on this, when we go into the tournament, we have a shot to do something.”
USF went into the bottom of the fourth inning tied 2-2, but that all changed as Memphis made crucial errors, and the Bulls found their swing.
Senior Mike Choquette broke the tie as he drove in senior Scott Rachlin.
“We were pressing for runs,” Choquette said. “We have not been scoring lately, and we just came in with some big hits.”
An error on the same play allowed another runner to come home, and Choquette to advance to second. The next pitch passed the catcher, allowing Choquette to move up to third.
“Those (errors) opened the doors,” Cardieri said. “They opened the doors, and we capitalized.”
The Bulls went on to score five more runs. Two were driven in by Brown, who doubled with runners on second and third, and two more came by singles.
Junior Myron Leslie capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
“I think these last couple games, we’ve been doing a better job of when we see a good pitch, we put a good swing on it instead of taking it,” Cardieri said. “That’s one of the big things, and we are doing better with swinging at bad pitches.”
The Tigers took the early lead when junior Kyle Scott hit a solo home run over the left field fence in the second inning.
The Tigers extended their lead in the third inning with another solo home run over the left field fence, this time by junior Michael Lewis.
“We knew it was going to be a long game,” Choquette said.
The Bulls responded after the homers with two runs of their own. Choquette scored after Mike Cunningham singled, and the Tigers catcher threw the ball away trying to get Choquette at second.