The USF baseball team’s offensive slump finally caught up with it Friday, as the Bulls were eliminated from the Big East Conference tournament after failing to score a run in two games against No. 8 seed Connecticut.
The Bulls’ 3-0 and 2-0 losses against the Huskies continued a trend USF had followed throughout the tournament. In four games, the Bulls held their opponents to six runs but produced only four of their own.
“We didn’t do a very good job of swinging the bats the whole week,” Coach Lelo Prado said. “I mean, we got great pitching performances (earlier in the week) and we got two great pitching performances today. We just didn’t do our job (at the plate).”
Pitcher Matt Quevedo started the first game for the Bulls Friday. The freshman right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits, one run and striking out six before being relieved by Shawn Sanford in the eighth inning.
After the pitching change, Connecticut third baseman Pat Mahoney drove in two runs on a double down the left field line. On the next at-bat, designated hitter Brad Olt scored the final run of the game on an RBI single to right field, giving the Huskies a 3-0 lead.
Sanford allowed two hits, two runs and had one strikeout in 1 1/3 innings.
USF had only three hits against Connecticut starter Greg Nappo. The Huskies’ freshman pitched his first career complete game against the Bulls and had seven strikeouts in the shutout victory.
“The pitchers did a great job,” Bulls’ pitcher Yuri Higgins said. “I wish we would have had a couple big hits here or there. (If we did) I think we would have come out on top, but we just didn’t get them.”The Bulls’ second game against the Huskies mirrored the first in many ways.
Higgins started the game for USF and pitched six scoreless innings before Huskies’ catcher Larry Day put Connecticut on the board when he scored on a wild pitch. Later in the inning, Mahoney’s second RBI double of the series gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead.
Higgins allowed five hits, two runs and struck out five before being relieved by senior Danny Otero in the seventh inning. Otero allowed one hit and no runs in one and 1 1/3 innings.
The Bulls’ offensive struggles continued in what proved to be their final game of the tournament.
Huskies’ starting pitcher Brendan McGinn gave Connecticut its second shutout of the day, allowing no runs on four hits. The senior left-hander also had seven strikeouts in the complete game victory.
USF’s second loss to Connecticut not only eliminated the Bulls from Big East Conference title contention, but also erased any chance for the team to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
The NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Monday with Rutgers, St. John’s and Louisville representing the Big East during the first round, which begins Friday.
Despite leading the Bulls to a 34-24 record – its best since 2002 – and coming only one win away from the Big East Conference championship game in his first season at USF, Prado wasn’t satisfied with how the season ended and clearly expected more from his club.
“We had our opportunities and we didn’t do it,” Prado said. “We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves. That’s how good we are – a 34-win club – and we couldn’t handle it.”