TAMPA — The University of South Florida held off a late rally by the the University of Central Florida for an important American Conference series win 5-4 at USF Baseball Stadium, and in doing so kept their hopes alive for a at large NCAA Regional bid. The Bulls finished the regular season (32-22-1, 13-11 American) and will open play in the American Conference Tournament on Tuesday as the fourth seed against Memphis at Bright House Field in Clearwater. UCF (31-25, 10-14 The American) earned the seventh seed, which sets up a matchup with No. 2 East Carolina at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Eugene Vazquez got the Knights started in the second delivering a 2 run triple and UCF took a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the inning. USF scored three runs with two outs, on base hits by Kyle Teaf, Kevin Merrell and Luke Maglich for a 3-2 lead.
The Bulls added two more runs in the fourth. Zac Gilcrease led off the inning with a single to right and would score, on Teaf’s second RBI single of the day.
Teaf advanced to third on a base hit by Merrell, and scored what turned out to be the difference in the game on a sacrifice fly by Maglich and the Bulls tenuous 5-2 lead.
Bulls senior starter Casey Mulholland pitched into the seventh, before giving up another run. He struck out five, walked two and scattered six hits, giving up three runs, two that were earned.
Jimmy Herget relieved Mulholland, finishing the seventh and gave up a sole home run in the eighth to Jordan Savinon, closing the UCF deficit to just one run 5-4.
Tommy Peterson came on the close in the ninth. A hit, an error, a sacrifice bunt, and a walk loaded the bases for Knights DH Tommy Williams with one out. Peterson forced a ground ball for a game ending 6-4-3 double play, and helped by senior Buddy Putnam’s pick of ball in the dirt.
“Casey Mulholland really stepped up and gave us a big time outing when we needed it. He got got us to our bullpen and gave us a shot. Jimmy ( Herget) came in a pitched in a different role than he has his whole career and got us to Tommy (Peterson) and Tommy did what Tommy does,”said assistant coach Mike Current.
It was senior day at USF and several seniors played big roles in helping the Bulls win a series that they had to win. Kyle Teaf has two hits, two RBI and scored two runs. Zac Gilcrease has a hit and scored two runs. Casey Mulholland gutted out 6 1/3 innings in stifling heat and Buddy Putnam picked ball out of the dirt, to end the game and will forever have a story to tell. I think all of the USF seniors will.
Over 1300 fans attended today’s game and they were vocal . I still wonder why the stadium is not packed on a game to game basis, but that’s subject matter for another article.
So are the Bulls going to a regional? Have they done enough to warrant selection by the committee? Here the way I see it today. The American will likely have three teams represented. Houston and East Carolina finished one-two overall and are locks to get in. That leaves a third spot. Tulane and USF finished with identical 13-11 records in conference, but the Green Wave gets the nod for tournament seedings by virtue of winning the regular season series between the two teams. The American getting four teams would solve the problem, but that’s not likely.
Lets look at some metrics, the same ones the committee will look at when considering their selections.
The Bulls rank #26 in RPI and rank #11 in strength of schedule in the third best conference RPI wise in the country. These metrics are hard to overlook.
Throw in some quality wins earlier this season, including a win at Illinois who are 45-6 overall and beating Cal State Fullerton 2-1 to start the season
Winning the American Conference Tournament would do it obviously. Winning a game or two in the tournament would also be hard to ignore, but at the end of the day, the Bulls rank #26 in RPI and rank #11 in strength of schedule in the third best conference RPI wise in the country.
Yes that was worth repeating.