Four games, 454 minutes. In a span of less than eight hours, the history of USF Athletics was changed. Entering the day, the USF baseball and softball teams were both one loss away from hanging up their cleats for the summer. But, as it turned out, both teams had different plans.
The story of Saturday, May 26, will be etched in USFs history for good. If things went badly, both teams would play one game each and be done for the season. But if all went well, the softball team would win twice in the NCAA Super Regionals, sealing a historic trip to the College World Series in Oklahoma city, and with two wins, the baseball team would clinch a Big East title game berth. The Oracle revisits the events as they unfolded in real time.
In a scoreless game in Clearwater, with runs at a premium, Jimmy Falla, who represented USF in the Home Run Derby during the Big East Baseball Tournament opening ceremonies, broke through in the top of the fourth to give USF a 1-0 lead over the Connecticut Huskies, about 30 minutes prior to softballs first pitch in Tampa.
While the Bulls and Hofstra Pride traded shutout pitching in Tampa, in Clearwater, the baseball team rode Fallas home run to another win, its third straight after losing the first game of the tournament to those same Huskies. Derrick Stultz led the way, pitching nine shutout innings and allowing just two hits in the game.
Entering the ninth inning, the Bulls softball players came up to bat hoping to break through for the first time all game. With runners on first and second, Kenshyra Jackson came up big, delivering an RBI single followed by a sacrifice fly from Laura Fountain to put the Bulls up 2-0.
After some dramatics in Tampa, including two straight infield singles that made it a 2-1 game, with the bases loaded and two outs, shortstop Kourtney Salvarola was able to get the game-ending ground out, and the Bulls set up a game three of their own, scheduled for a 6:04 p.m. start, 26 minutes before baseball would begin.
As Nick Gonzalez took the mound to start game 3 in Clearwater, the USF softball team jumped to its earliest lead of the series, snagging a 1-0 lead on the strength of a bases-loaded walk from Jackson.
One run would not be enough for the Bulls in Tampa, as the Pride managed to tie the game on a passed ball from Lindsey Richardson in the bottom of the second.
With the baseball team stuck in a pitchers duel in Clearwater,the action took off in Tampa when, with runners on first and second and no outs on the board in the third inning, Jessica Mouse made a huge defensive play, scooping a ground ball, stepping on third and throwing to first to get the double play.
In the final big moments in Tampa before a relatively routine ending, Gina Kafalas picked up a leadoff single and eventually came around to score the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly from Stephanie Medina.
Just two pitches altered the course of the entire Big East Tournament in Clearwater. A walk, single and balk got runners on second and third with no outs for the Bulls, down 1-0. Two wild pitches later, the baseball team had its own 2-1 lead entering the eighth.
After a ground ball to Jessica Mouse and a throw to Stephanie Medina, one celebration was on as the softball team clinched the 2-1 win and sealed a spot in the College Softball World Series for the first time in USF history. Coach Ken Eriksen and pitcher Sara Nevins were both doused with Gatorade as the Bulls celebrated. Attention turned to Clearwater, where Austin Adams came in to close the game with USF just three outs from a berth in the Big East title game.
Seven hours and 34 minutes after these games began, Luis Llerena threw to Buddy Putnam to seal a spot in the Big East title game, closing out the day and the game with a 2-1 win.