GAINESVILLE Faced with the opportunity to step into the national spotlight, the Bulls didnt shy away from the pressure, upsetting No. 2 Florida 5-3 Tuesday night.
On a chilly night at the McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, senior Matt Reed pitched a stellar 5.2 innings and the USF offense, led by a power surge from senior catcher Andrew Longley, carried the Bulls to what could become a season-defining victory.
Coach asked me before the game if I was nervous, Reed said. And I said, Coach, you threw me against the Yankees. I dont think it gets bigger than that.
USF (28-14) got started quickly in the second inning, when Jimmy Falla hit a double and Zac Gilcrease reached on an error, followed by an RBI groundout from Longley, who was just getting started on a big night. Kyle Teaf reached on an infield single to score Gilcrease, making the lead 2-0 early on.
Longley added to the Bulls advantage with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot that flew past the left-center wall, and followed it up with an identical bomb in the eighth, to seal the 5-3 win.
Outstanding, coach Lelo Prado said of Longleys performance. Last year (Florida) got after him a bit, so to come here and hit two home runs like he did, Im happy for him.
After Florida (31-10) tied the game up, USF took a 4-3 lead after seven innings, but Longleys second home run of the night provided an insurance run.
We didnt even need (the second home run) at the end, but it was great to have for myself, he said. But the team was swinging the bat well as a whole, not just me.
With an impact win over a respected opponent under their belt, the Bulls have put an exclamation point on what has turned into a major turnaround season for USF. A year after the Bulls finished with just 25 wins, they have 28 wins with three weeks to go in the season.
The win over the Gators was USFs first win over their northern rivals since 2005, and the longest tenured players appreciated the importance of the win.
Coach Prado told the seniors last year after we lost to Florida, he said, You guys have never beaten Florida in your career, Reed said. So I really wanted to beat these guys.
Longley, another senior, cherished the moment as well.
Ive been waiting to beat this team forever, he said. Since Ive been here, which feels 10 ten years, we havent beat them, so it feels good.
Along with expelling a few demons, the Bulls solidified their season standing, one that already boasted a first place spot in the Big East.
If this isnt a resume builder, I dont know what is, Prado said.