After four hours and 25 minutes of buildup, USF’s marathon loss to Elon on Sunday came to an abrupt end.
Trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the 16th inning, the top of the Bulls’ order went down easily. Third baseman Jonathan Koscso struck out looking on three pitches, pinch-hitter Peter Brotons flew out to center field on the first pitch of his at-bat and shortstop Sam Mende struck out swinging on his third pitch.
And just like that, a game that tied the USF all-time record for longest game played, was over. The Bulls (1-5) also lost to Elon 4-3 in extra innings in the season opener at their new stadium Friday night.
USF first baseman Todd Brazeal was the hero Saturday night in a 3-2 victory, the first this season for the Bulls. His walkoff home run with one out in the ninth inning gave the Bulls a chance to win the series in Sunday’s rubber match.
Brazeal also provided the clutch hit in the ninth inning Sunday that forced extra innings. USF needed three runs when Brazeal stepped to the plate and hit a RBI double to deep left-center field, scoring Junior Carlin. Both the left fielder and center fielder failed at picking up the ball, allowing it to roll all the way to the wall. Anthony Diaz, who was pinch-running for Daniel Rockhold, scored the game-tying run because of the error.
Nine USF pitchers contributed in Sunday’s effort, at one point holding the Phoenix (5-2) scoreless for 10 consecutive innings. Adrian Puig, Jimmy Moran, Austin Adams, Kevin Quackenbush, Carlin and Zach Pietrzyk all pitched at least one scoreless inning.
“Puig did his job, Jimmy came back – we wanted to get him in – Austin made a great pitch, Quack was Quack and Carlin did an outstanding job, but he was spent,” coach Lelo Prado said. “(Carlin) was dead tired. Zach continues to pitch good.”
After playing the first nine innings in left field, Carlin moved to the pitcher’s mound in the 11th inning, throwing for three innings to the minimum nine batters. Carlin allowed two hits, striking out four Phoenix players.
Elon finally broke the deadlock when Harry Austin and Alex Swim both drew walks in the decisive 16th inning. USF reliever Andrew Loynaz also hit Eric Serra with a pitch in the inning. Phoenix right fielder Niko Fraser, who was 0 for 6 on the day at that point, hit a two-run single, driving in the eventual game-winning runs.
A sea of 3,126 fans, a new USF baseball attendance record, watched Friday as pitcher Randy Fontanez threw the first pitch in the new stadium. He pitched seven shutout innings as the Bulls built a 3-0 lead. The Phoenix scored three runs in an explosive eighth inning to tie the game before winning in the 10th.
USF’s Saturday starter, Andrew Barbosa, struck out eight Phoenix players in four innings of work before leaving the game due to tightness in his pitching arm. Kyle Eastham held Elon scoreless for the next four innings, setting the stage for Brazeal’s dramatic winner.
“I was looking to hit the ball to the middle of the field, and I got lucky. He left a change-up up (in the zone) and I got a hold of it,” Brazeal said. “It feels great, but it feels even better to win.”
USF now has a quick turnaround before facing No. 20 Miami at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.