USF Holds Off Rutgers, 5-2, In Big East Baseball Championship

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -  Second baseman Nik Alfonso went 3-for-3 and centerfielder James Ramsay delivered a pair of RBI singles to lead USF past Rutgers 5-2 Wednesday night in the first round of the Big East Baseball Championship at Bright House Field.
 
The No. 4-seeded Bulls (36-20) advance in the winners' bracket to face No. 8-seeded Connecticut Thursday at 8 p.m. Rutgers, which came in as the No. 5 seed, is faced with an elimination game against top-seeded Louisville at 5 p.m.
 
USF rode a strong pitching performance from righthander JImmy Herget, the unanimous Big East Rookie of the Year. Herget worked 7.2 innings, allowing five hits and one run with four strikeouts to improve to 6-2.
 
Alex Mendez broke a tie game with a base hit that scored Levi Borders in the bottom of the fifth, giving USF a 2-1 lead. Ramsay's first RBI single made it 3-1, and Jimmy Falla added an RBI single of his own to give the Bulls a 4-1 cushion through five.
 
The Bulls built a 5-1 lead on Ramsay's line drive single to center in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Alfonso from second.
 
Rutgers threatened in the top of the eighth, loading the bases for the Scarlet Knights' leading home run hitter, catcher Jeff Melillo. But reliever Lawrence Pardo got Melillo to foul out to the catcher to strand three runners.
 
The Scarlet Knights again loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but USF escaped with just one run allowed as Chad Taylor induced back-to-back popups in the infield to end it.
 
Ramsay finished 2-for-4 with two RBI to go with Alfonso's three-hit performance for USF. Rutgers managed just six hits against Bulls pitching, while Scarlet Knight starter Rob Smorol took the loss on the mound, falling to 5-7.