Three innings into Saturday’s game against Louisville, USF appeared to be on its way to a three-game sweep. After a couple of ejections, however, the momentum and the score changed.
Despite Cardinals coaches James McAuley and Lelo Prado getting tossed from the game, Louisville (16-20, 7-5) went on to beat the Bulls (17-20, 7-8) 5-4 at Red McEwen Field.
With USF leading 3-1 in the third inning, catcher Derrick Alfonso hit the ball down the first-base line, and after first-base umpire Tony Gisondi called it a foul ball, McAuley – who was coaching first base – erupted and was eventually thrown out of the game.
“I don’t have a good line on it (from the dugout),” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “The umpire thought that the ball crossed the bag foul, and it had weird spin on it because he hit it off the cap, so it could have spun back and gave the appearance that it was fair, but it just doesn’t matter. It’s where it crossed the bag.”
Prado was ejected the following inning after center fielder Daniel Burton was denied a free base when he turned his elbow into a pitch from sophomore Davis Billardello. After being ejected, Prado kicked dirt onto home plate while home plate umpire Bill Lopina was brushing the plate off.
“(There were) some crazy plays,” Cardieri said. “Sometimes you can go 20 games and not see an odd play, and there were a couple odd plays in that ball game.”
After the incident at home plate was over, the Cardinals may have been short two coaches, but they quickly gained the lead, scoring three runs in the fourth inning.
Cardieri felt that the ejection of Prado may have sparked Louisville’s comeback.
“Managers will do that sometimes,” Cardieri said. “They’ll get ejected to try to swing the momentum in their team’s favor.”
Junior Yuri Higgins, who pitched four innings, felt that Lopina’s pitch calling was also a factor.
“I think the umpire got scared of their coach, then started helping them out a lot, expanding the zone, because he wasn’t giving us the same thing,” Higgins said.
Despite the loss, the Bulls beat the Cardinals on Thursday and Friday, which snapped a six-game conference losing streak, and Cardieri was pleased to win the series.
“In any conference when you win two out of three, it’s a good thing,” Cardieri said. “We needed to sweep, just because we were swept the previous two weekends (against Cincinnati and Notre Dame). We have our backs so far against the wall right now that it would have been nice to sweep, but when it’s all said and done and you won two out of three, you did pretty good.”
Higgins had a tougher time accepting the loss than Cardieri did.
“We expected to win all three of the games,” Higgins said. “This wasn’t one of the best teams in the league that we played.”