Bulls fall to UConn, face elimination from Big East tourney

USF’s back is against the wall.

After falling to Connecticut 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the Big East baseball tournament at Bright House Field in Clearwater today, the Bulls face elimination against West Virginia at approximately 5:30 p.m.

“If we lose, we go home,” said freshmen Sam Mende, who went 2-for-3 and scored a run.  “It’s up to us, not anyone else.  We just have to wake up and play.”

USF picked a bad time of the season to struggle offensively.  After scoring 12 runs against Notre Dame in the first round on Tuesday, the Bulls managed just two runs on five hits — tied for the second lowest all season.

“You don’t hit, you don’t win,” said USF coach Lelo Prado.  “We didn’t hit today.  If we want to win the tournament, we have to swing the bats.  We didn’t do a very good job for eight innings.”

After entering the ninth down 4-1, USF mounted a rally.  The Bulls loaded the bases on UConn closer David Erickson and Ryan Lockwood hit an RBI single with two outs, scoring Chris Rey to trim the lead to 4-2.  The next batter, Peter Brotons, grounded out with the bases loaded to end the game, however.

USF’s Shawn Sanford and UConn’s Matt McDonald were locked in a pitcher’s duel for most of the game.  After only allowing just an earned run on three hits through the first seven, Sanford allowed two runs on two hits and two wild pitches in the eighth.

“I got the first two outs in the eighth and felt the strongest I felt all day,” Sanford said.  “If I just got that last out in the eight, that little spark in the ninth would’ve meant something.  It stinks that I couldn’t close the eighth.”

The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but inclement weather yesterday pushed it back until today.

“Obviously, everyone is more comfortable on a schedule,” Sanford said.  “But that’s part of the game.  Delays are going to happen. “

The Huskies added runs in the fourth and sixth inning. USF has now lost three of four games against the Huskies this year.

The winner of the USF and West Virginia will face UConn in Saturday’s semifinal, which has yet to finalized.

“If they don’t know their backs are against the wall, they need to go do something else for a living,” Prado said.