USF falls in Big East semifinals

USF senior Mike Consolmagno stood outside the Bulls’ locker room, fighting back tears as he talked to reporters after the second-seeded USF baseball team was eliminated
by sixth-seeded Connecticut 10-8 in the semifinals of the Big East tournament Saturday at Bright House Field in Clearwater.

Along with three other seniors, it was Consolmagno’s last game at USF as the Bulls ended their season with a 34-25 record.

“I’ve been here five years and it’s been a great time,” he said. “I love all my teammates. I love USF. It’s been great. It hurts a lot.”

USF had an opportunity to do damage early, loading the bases in the first with no outs. The Bulls managed just one run, however.

With the score tied 1-1, the Huskies put up two in the second inning and five in the third. They hit four homers in the game.

“We couldn’t stop them early and that killed us,” said USF coach Lelo Prado. “We needed innings out of guys and we didn’t get it. The guys battled hard the whole time. We had a chance to win it there in the ninth, so it’s a tough loss but you got to give (UConn) credit — they put some runs on the board.”

USF used five pitchers, with junior Matt Quevedo taking the loss in a starting role.

The Bulls tried to claw back into the game, scoring four runs in the fourth on four hits. But the Huskies extended their lead to 10-5 in the seventh inning off of third baseman Mike Olt’s second home run.

USF scored two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth, but the Huskies held on in the ninth to seal the victory.

Consolmagno and fellow seniors Trey Manz, Chris Rey and Brandon Smith each played their last game in a USF uniform.

“I talked to (Consolmagno) early in the year and he wasn’t going to play,” Prado said. “He took it like a man and for him to play like that in the end was nice to see.”

Consolmagno went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, hoping to reverse the fate of two years ago, when the Bulls needed just one win in two games against the Huskies to go to the championship game in the Big East tournament. However, UConn got the best of USF both times.

“They beat us twice two years ago and knocked us out so I thought we had a chance here for some revenge,” he said. “You just got to roll with the punches.”

The Bulls defeated Pittsburgh 12-2 in the opening round of the tournament Wednesday, then lost to the Huskies on Thursday in the second round. USF went on to defeat West Virginia on Friday night in an elimination game.

Freshman shortstop Sam Mende was selected to the All-Tournament team after going
11-for-17 in the Bulls’ four games.