Five hits doomed the Bulls.
The Bulls were swept by Cincinnati (16-10, 3-3) this weekend, a team that was in the midst of a four-game losing streak. After losing two games Saturday, since Friday’s game was postponed with USF (14-15, 5-4) already down 6-4, the Bulls blew a 10-8 lead in the bottom of the ninth Sunday, allowing the Bearcats to win 11-10 and sweep the series.
With Davis Bilardello getting the start Sunday and allowing five runs on eight hits, it was closer Chase Lirette who allowed three runs with two outs in the ninth on five consecutive 0-2 pitch count hits to let the Bearcats walk away with the win.
“Bottom line,” coach Eddie Cardieri said, “we just didn’t pitch well. Cincinnati, you have to see them play – they’re a good team. Pitching-wise we were not good at locating. I’m not going to point any fingers at anyone, it just wasn’t enough when we needed it.”
Junior Casey Hudspeth pitched five innings Friday, allowing six runs on eight hits and striking out seven, while sophomore Daniel Thomas allowed seven runs on 11 hits Saturday.
But according to Cardieri, not all Bulls pitchers threw poorly; good hitting by Cincinnati was also a factor.
“We had our closer (Lirette) out there, we’re right where we wanted to be,” Cardieri said, “then they get five consecutive hits with two outs. He’s been doing his job all year long, and it just didn’t work out today.
“It’s a cardinal rule that you don’t want to give up 0-2 hits, and we did it several times.”
USF took the lead in the eighth. Nick Cardieri and catcher Braulio Pardo scored after Ty Taborelli’s RBI walk and leftfielder Kris Howell hit into a double play with no outs.
Reliever Matt Ingram, who Cardieri said “pitched extremely well,” allowed no runs the next inning.
And after the Bulls quickly went through the top of the ninth, USF got two swift outs on an outfield assist to second base by Taborelli and a strikeout by Lirette.
But the Bearcats got three runs on six hits, though Bulls players, such as Kris Howell, called the winning run a “controversial play.”
Cincinnati third baseman Jon DeLuca hit the game-tying run but didn’t realize it and proceeded to run off the base path “all the way almost to the pitcher’s mound” to celebrate, Howell said. According to the Rule 8.5.a in the NCAA baseball rulebook, a player who “leaves the baseline, obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base” or “leaves the baseline heading for his dugout or his position believing that there is no further play, may be declared out if the umpire judges the act of the runner to be considered abandoning his efforts to run the bases.”
After DeLuca realized his error, he ran back to the base and the umpires convened, declaring him safe.
“I guess if you don’t make an attempt to get him out, then I guess he’s safe,” Howell said. “That was the interpretation the umpire made, so it stuck.”
After the series and the loss Sunday, Howell said it was not only upsetting, but also disappointing.
“I came out of the game in the bottom of eighth, and it’s kind of hard to get pissed when you’re not on the field.” Howell said. “We had chances – a couple where the bases were loaded and only got one or two runs, and we just didn’t break the game wide open. I mean, it’s disappointing when you dominate Cincinnati the past three or four years and then get swept. It’s not right.”