CLEARWATER – Perhaps it wasn’t as bad as the last time St. John’s right-hander Rob Delaney started against the Bulls. Perhaps it wasn’t all that bad – but it wasn’t all that good, either.
The last time was May 13, ending in a 19-0 pounding by the Red Storm (38-18) in which the redshirt junior pitched a seven-inning shutout performance.
USF (23-35) did get two runs in the first inning off the Delaney this time, which was the total number of hits the Bulls got off him the last time out.
However, Wednesday at Bright House Networks Field ended in a 6-4 Bulls’ loss, eliminating them from the Big East Tournament.
This time out was a little prettier for USF against Delaney. The Bulls got four runs on eight hits, including a Joey Angelberger home run, USF’s only one of the tournament.
“He messed up on a change up, but I didn’t do anything different,” Angelberger said. “It’s the same approach I took in the 19-0 game, and it’s the same approach I took today.”
With the Bulls finding some success on Delaney, it was USF’s starter who had a short outing. Davis Bilardello pitched just 1 2/3 innings, giving up a six-run second inning that gave the Red Storm a lead the Bulls couldn’t catch.
“That six-run inning could’ve been a two-run inning if we had done a few things defensively,” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “But they got all their runs in that inning.”
Once Bilardello was pulled, he was replaced by junior Yuri Higgins, who pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings and gave up just two hits himself.
“He basically just shut them down,” Cardieri said. “They’re a great offensive club – hit .324 on the year. Yuri just came in and did his job.”
Cardieri said Higgins could have made the start but felt the success Bilardello had against St. John’s in the regular season series solidified the nod he got Wednesday.
“Davis pitched exceptionally well against these guys up there,” Cardieri said. “Yuri would have been a good choice as well. But we needed to stay in the same rotation as we did last weekend, where we flip-flopped Daniel Thomas and Davis. However, with as many right-handed bats in their lineup, we could have flipped a coin between Yuri and Davis.”
The Bulls had chances that were not capitalized on. After leaving 10 runners on base in the 3-1 loss to Notre Dame (42-14-1) on Tuesday, USF left another six on base Wednesday. In the fifth, the Bulls had back-to-back doubles by third baseman Dexter Butler and Ty Taborelli, scoring Butler, but shortstop Addison Maruszak lined out to his counterpart, catching Taborelli in a double play.
Following Angelberger’s home run in the seventh, Delaney was relieved by Justin Muir, who gave up just one hit and struck out four to end the game.
“We had a few key situations in the game I thought we could take advantage of,” Howell said. “Sure, the home run was one of them, but we couldn’t just get the push on them.”
Added Cardieri, “I really thought that when we had those back-to-back doubles, we’d get something going there.”
Cardieri, in his 21st and possibly final year – since his contract has yet to be renewed – thought his team played well down the stretch to just make the Big East Tournament.
“The last five games, these guys really came together as a team and played the game right,” Cardieri said. “And it’s what I’ve come to expect, especially since they did it with their backs to the wall.”
Catcher Brian Baisley, one of the five seniors this season, thought the Bulls put up a fight despite the two losses.
“We were scratching and clawing just to get in (the Big East Tournament),” Baisley said. “It would have been kind of an embarrassment if we’re hosting the tournament and we’re not even in it.
“We need to play two good games in West Virginia, and we did that. We played good last night, and we didn’t play terrible today.”