Three-game sweep ends hope of regular season title

The USF baseball team’s first time being swept in a conference series all season couldn’t have come at a worse moment.

Needing only one win at Louisville in a three-game series to secure a Big East regular season championship — and the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament — the Bulls (32-23, 18-9) were swept by the Cardinals (40-14, 19-7), who earned themselves the title, something USF still has yet to accomplish.

“We have no one to blame but ourselves,” said USF coach Lelo Prado. “It was a big stage and a hostile environment. Louisville’s been there, and done that, and we haven’t. I couldn’t be more disappointed.”

On Thursday, USF batters were subdued by Cardinal starter Justin Marks, who gave up no runs while striking out 12 in 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 Louisville victory.

In Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader, USF took a 1-0 lead into the seventh, but the Cardinals scored two in the seventh and two in the eighth en route to a 4-3 win, setting up the deciding game.

“We had opportunities in the first two games and we didn’t capitalize,” Prado said.

In the second game, Louisville rode out the momentum from the first two games, breezing to a 12-1 win and claiming the championship.

“We made the crowd and the atmosphere more a factor than it should’ve been,” said USF assistant coach Bryant Ward. “It was a different environment. We didn’t respond very well to the surroundings.”