USF Advances to Baseball Championship Final with 2-1 Win Over UConn

CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL
HIGHLIGHTS
INTERVIEW WITH LELO PRADO
INTERVIEW WITH NICK GONZALEZ

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Just hours after registering a shutout in a must-win game against Connecticut, USF's pitching staff held the Huskies to five hits and one run as the Bulls rallied for a 2-1 win in the semifinal round of the BIG EAST Baseball Championship Saturday night at Bright House Field.

The win sends the Bulls (38-21) to the championship final for the first time in school history. USF will face St. John's - a 2-1 winner against Notre Dame earlier Saturday - at noon Sunday in the championship game as the Bulls look for their first BIG EAST title. Connecticut (31-27) was eliminated from the tournament after its second loss.

Needing to beat the Huskies twice Saturday, USF's pitching staff held Connecticut to just one run and eight hits in the two semifinal games. The nightcap saw starting pitcher Nick Gonzalez allow just four hits and one earned run with eight strikeouts, while the Bulls' bullpen provided three innings of one-hit, shutout relief.

Connecticut's pitching staff was nearly up to the task as well. The Huskies limited the Bulls to six hits - all singles - in the second game, but two walks, a balk and two wild pitches in the seventh inning proved too much to overcome.

The Huskies had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth after first baseman Tim Martin stroked a two-out double to rightfield and second baseman LJ Mazzilli followed with a base hit to left to drive in the run.

USF threatened with two men on in the bottom of the sixth, but Connecticut reliever Dan Feehan worked out of the jam, getting James Ramsay on a grounder to first to end the inning.

Daniel Rockhold drew a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the seventh, and Jimmy Falla's base hit to left allowed the Bulls to get the first two men aboard. The runners advanced to second and third on a balk, and Rockhold scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. Feehan retired Buddy Putnam on a grounder to short for the first out, but another wild pitch allowed Falla to score, giving the Bulls a 2-1 advantage.

Reliever Austin Adams came on to work the eighth inning and retired the side in order before working around an error that put the leadoff man aboard in the ninth. Adams got the next three men in order to register his fifth save of the year.

Steven Leasure, who worked a scoreless seventh inning, was credited with the win, improving to 2-0. Falla, who went 2-for-3, was the only USF player with multiple hits.

Connecticut was led offensively by Mazzilli, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Feehan (1-2) took the loss in relief after Carson Cross pitched 5.2 shutout innings in just his second start of the year.


2012 BIG EAST Baseball Championship Schedule

Wednesday, May 23
(Live video on www.bigeastbaseball.com)
Game 1 - No. 3 Seton Hall 6, No. 6 Rutgers 1
Game 2 - No. 2 St. John's 12, No. 7 Notre Dame 2 (7 innings)
Game 3 - No. 1 Louisville 8, No. 8 Pittsburgh 4
Game 4 - No. 5 Connecticut 7, No. 4 USF 2

Thursday, May 24
(Live video on www.bigeastbaseball.com)
Game 5 - Notre Dame 9, Rutgers 0 (Rutgers eliminated)
Game 6 - St. John's 6, Seton Hall 3
Game 7 - USF 12, Pittsburgh 5 (Pittsburgh eliminated)

Friday, May 25
(Live video on www.bigeastbaseball.com)
Game 8 - Connecticut 4, Louisville 1
Game 9 - Notre Dame 4, Seton Hall 3 (Seton Hall eliminated)
Game 10 - USF 6, Louisville 2 (Louisville eliminated)

Saturday, May 26
(Live video on www.bigeastbaseball.com)
Game 11 - St. John's 2, Notre Dame 1 (Notre Dame eliminated)
Game 12 - USF 1, Connecticut 0
Game 14 - USF 2, Connecticut 1 (Connecticut eliminated)

Sunday, May 27 - Championship game
(live television on ESPNU)
Game 15 - USF (38-21) vs. St. John's (36-21), Noon

All times Eastern