Senior first baseman Joey Angelberger finished the 2008 regular season with a .329 batting average and led the Bulls in both home runs (10) and RBIs (48). ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REED
The South Florida baseball team turned in a clutch performance when it needed it.
The Bulls (28-25, 14-13) needed to win at least one game against the conference’s No. 2 team, Notre Dame, during the final series of the season. The Bulls did two better.
USF earned its first sweep over a conference foe since joining the Big East in 2005 and went from being on the bubble to the No. 6 seed in the Big East Conference tournament, which begins Tuesday in Clearwater.
“The best part about the sweep is that you go into the tournament riding sky-high rather than backing into the tournament,” USF coach Lelo Prado said. “We kept working and it really paid off for us.”
The Bulls and Notre Dame (33-19-1, 16-10) had close matches all weekend. Each of the three games was decided by one run, with USF coming from behind in two.
“We were ready to play this weekend,” senior first baseman Joey Angelberger said. “Our coaches always tell us that we need to be the best team in the Big East, and to do that we need to sweep people. This was a step in the right direction, especially for the freshmen.”
One freshman in particular came up with hits when the Bulls needed them. Outfielder Junior Carlin had two game-winning RBIs for the Bulls. He drove in the winning run in Friday’s 3-2, 16-inning win and in Saturday’s 9-8 victory.
“It was just amazing,” Carlin said. “I was just looking for holes in the middle of the field and I just tried to hit the ball. I wasn’t trying to be a hero, I just wanted to put the ball in play and see what happened.”
While a freshman stepped up for the game-winner, it was a senior who got things started for the Bulls on Saturday. Angelberger hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning, cutting into Notre Dame’s 8-0 lead. It was his fourth home run in four days.
The Bulls batted around the order and tallied six runs in the inning.
“We were struggling. We were struggling on offense, on defense, we were making errors,” Angelberger said. “We needed to have something start us if we were going to come back. I just thought that inning everyone had good at bats, and it was really a team effort.”
Angelberger was emotional after the game. It was his last regular season game in a USF uniform.
“It’s hard,” Angelberger said. “I’ve been here for five years. Just leaving the field for the last week has just put me in awe. I have mixed emotions. We swept, so I’m happy. I’m just happy that we got the win.”
The Bulls will not have to do much scouting on their first-round opponent in the Big East tournament. Because of the sweep, Notre Dame dropped from No. 2 in the Big East to No. 3 and will play USF for the fourth time in six days Tuesday.
“I think it would have been easier to look past them if (Saturday) wouldn’t have happened,” Angelberger said. “We see that we need to play our best because they can jump out to a lead, just like anyone else.”
The Fighting Irish – who came into the season-ending series with Big East title aspirations – are taking solace in one key fact.
“The important thing is that what happened over (the weekend) really doesn’t matter,” Notre Dame coach Dave Schrage said. “We can’t think about the last three games. We have to think about what’s ahead on Tuesday.”