USF stays “alive” for today’s semifinal

USF’s offense got going at the right time, reliever Kevin Quackenbush did an exceptional job out of the bullpen and the Bulls got past West Virginia 11-6 to move into the semifinals of the Big East tournament, extending their season at least one more day.

“We’re alive. We’re on life support,” said USF coach Lelo Prado.  “We live for another day.”

After the Bulls and Mountaineers went back and forth for six innings, USF pulled away in the top of the seventh, scoring six runs on five hits.  Junior Peter Brotons keyed the rally with a one-out, two-run double.

“That was a huge hit because we were battling back and forth and that hit put us up a couple,” Prado said.  “He had been struggling with the bat so it was nice to see him get going.”

Brotons said he’s just glad to keep playing.

“We expect the best, I’m just glad we got this game to keep our season alive,” he said.

With USF trailing 3-1, freshman Todd Brazeal hit a towering three-run homer in the fifth to put the Bulls up 4-3.

West Virginia answered in the bottom half of the inning as Dan DiBartolomeo hit a two-run homer to put the Mountaineers up 5-4.

However, the Bulls eventually proved to be too much in the seventh.

“After one hit, another comes,” Brotons said.  “It was a big momentum change after that inning.  That’s what wins games.”

Derrick Stultz left the game after five innings of work and Quackenbush held the best hitting team in the Big East in check, allowing only one run on six hits in four innings, while not walking a batter and striking out five.

“When you keep that team down like that, that’s pretty good,” Prado said.  “They’re scary down six in the ninth.  I can’t say enough about the job he did.”

Quackenbush said he was careful with the Mountaineers’ lineup.

“You can’t miss your spots with those guys.  They’ll hit it far,” he said.  “They’re a great hitting ballclub.”

With Quackenbush in a fair amount of trouble in the eighth, shortstop Sam Mende made a diving catch with two outs — and two on base — to limit the damage.

“That was a big league play,” Prado said.

Quackenbush was impressed.

“Unbelievable play,” he said.

USF pounded out 15 hits, tying a team record for hits in a Big East tournament game.

USF plays Connecticut tomorrow in the semifinals at 1 p.m., pending weather.  The Bulls have to beat the Huskies twice since they lost to them on Thursday.