After two upset victories earlier this week against ECU and UCF, USF baseball suffered back-to-back losses against No. 15 ECU in the AAC Baseball Championship semifinals on Saturday to end their season.
If South Florida had won one of its two games, it would have clinched a Baseball Championship berth.
Coming into the tournament seeded No. 8 in the conference, USF defeated No.1 ECU 12-11 in extra innings on Tuesday, then run-ruled No.4 UCF 15-4. The Bulls advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
East Carolina 3, South Florida 1
In their first matchup, the Bulls (21-39) fell 3-1 to the Pirates (45-16) in a game highlighted by stellar pitching. Redshirt sophomore pitcher Nolan Hudi threw six strikeouts in six innings for the Bulls, while Pirates pitcher Nolan Saylor struck out six batters in eight innings pitched.
Both teams were scoreless until ECU brought a run off an RBI triple in the fifth inning. In the sixth, freshman outfielder Jackson Mayo hit a solo home run to tie the game 1-1.
The Pirates would respond immediately in the bottom of the sixth frame with two runs. They also held off the Bulls’ late-game rally in the ninth inning. Freshman infielder Bobby Boser led with a double but the team was unable to capitalize, leaving three runners on base.
During the game, East Carolina had 10 hits but only produced three runs. The Pirates average 7.7 runs per game on the year. Bulls coach Billy Mohl said Hudi’s performance gave USF a chance to re-take the lead in the final inning.
“Hudi gave us all we could ask for in the opener,” Mohl said. “I thought it was an incredible outing, he gave us a chance, and he set us up well in the bullpen for the next game. We felt good knowing we had all three of our weekend starters available later in the day if need be.”
East Carolina 14, South Florida 7
Later in the day, both teams’ offenses took a major leap in game two, combining for 17 runs on 18 hits. The Bulls recorded four runs and five runs in the second inning alone.
Ultimately, the Pirates scored five runs in the fourth inning to take a 10-7 advantage and never looked back. Over its last five innings, ECU scored four runs while holding South Florida scoreless.
Eight seniors played in their final game for the Bulls. Pitchers Hunter Mink, Tanner Mink, Ethan Brown, Nolan Hudi and Dylan Vega, outfielder David Cantu, catcher Ben Rozenblum and third baseman Travis Sankovich took the field for the last time at USF.
Despite dropping back-to-back losses to the Pirates, Mohl said he was proud of his team for the stretch they had in the tournament.
“I’m proud of how our guys performed over the last few days in a grueling tournament, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done,” Mohl said. “ECU won the regular season championship and is nationally ranked for a reason, and we went to battle with them three times this week. Tip your cap to them. They are deep on the mound and continued to give us different looks today to keep us off balance and outlast us.”
The Bulls ended the season with a 21-39 record, their lowest win total in a full regular season since 2016. Their 7-17 conference record marks their fewest conference wins in a non-shortened season since 1992.