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USF Baseball Beats C. Florida, Get Ready for Clearwater

In one of the oddest weeks in Bulls history, the Bulls would appear to be a couple wins away from their first NCAA Regional since 2002.

Note: I had the days wrong originally: this series was Thursday-Saturday, not Friday-Sunday. I was even there on Saturday & knew this, I just fell into a calendar trap around how college baseball generally works. My bad. Fixed.

So what happened at USF Baseball this weekend?


It started on Thursday with the announcement that USF head coach Mark Kingston had been suspended five games for an "incident" occurring after the Sunday game with Tulane last weekend. He was banned from the USF Baseball Stadium all weekend, as well as the first two games in the American Athletic Conference Tournament starting in Clearwater on Tuesday.

From the official USF release:

University of South Florida Head Baseball Coach Mark Kingston will serve an automatic one-game suspension tonight in the Bulls' series opener vs. UCF as well as a supplemental four games levied by the NCAA following his post-game ejection from the Bulls' 4-3 loss at Tulane on Sunday.

"I have discussed what occurred in Tulane in depth with Mark and appreciate his candor and honesty in describing the events as he saw them," USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan said. "Mark is a tremendous leader and we both share a common belief in good sportsmanship and mutual respect between coaches, student-athletes and umpires."

Kingston will continue to lead the USF program and conduct practices during the duration of the suspension. Assistant Coaches Mike Current and Billy Mohl will handle in-game managerial duties during this time.

"I acknowledge my part in a post-game exchange with an umpire that I should not have participated in," Kingston said. "I will always support our student-athletes, but in this case allowed myself to be part of an excessive dispute. I will sit out the required games and know that our team and myself will move forward better from the lessons learned."

Anyone that's met Mark Kingston would hardly describe him as "likes to fight guy," so this seems a bit much. As long as the umpiring crew from the Tulane series doesn't make it to Clearwater for the AAC Tournament, this seems a dead issue. #UmpShow.

Losing Kingston could have hurt the Bulls as they hit the field for the weekend rematch vs. C. Florida. At 30-21-1 with an RPI in the high 20's-low 30's depending on where you looked, it was a massive weekend for a team looking to get to an NCAA Tournament for the first time since "Hot In Herre" by Nelly was the #1 song in America: The summer of 2002.

On Thursday things went... poorly. Junior ace Jimmy Herget got shelled for four runs (including two HR's) in his only inning of work, and then the rains came. The Bulls decided to shelve Herget after an almost two hour delay despite only throwing 25 pitches, and Joe Cavallaro came in relief. Relief he did not provide, as he conceded seven runs in three innings of work himself.

A furious five-run rally in the ninth inning brought the tying run to the plate for the Bulls, but it would fall short in a 12-9 game that looked more like Sunday baseball instead of the game where aces are starters.

On Friday USF righted the ship behind six innings of two-run ball by junior Ryan Valdes, and a five-run sixth inning gave the Bulls an insurmountable margin in the 7-3 victory. Back-to-back singles from seniors Austin Lueck & Kyle Teaf (NOTE: RIP Kyle Teaf's awful dubstep at-bat music... not hearing that song played at Spinal Tap volume is the best thing about no more home games for USF this season) were followed by Kevin Merrell's 23rd bunt single of the season.

With the sacks packed and nobody out Luke Maglich hit a two-RBI single, and Levi Borders hit a fifth-straight single to plate one more. Buddy Putnam then moved the runners via sacrifice bunt, and Luke Borders cleared the bases with a double.

The rubber game on Saturday thus was full of IMPLICATIONS, and the always wild ride known as Casey Mulholland got the ball for the Bulls. The senior got through 6.1 innings conceding three (two earned), but was given a cushion to work with after the home team put three across in the third and two more in the fourth without the benefit of an extra base hit in either frame.

Herget entered for 1.2 innings of work as well on what would end up looking like a modified side day, conceding one more to the Knights on 22 pitches. Though his last week of work was unorthodox, he should be able to start the first game of the AAC Tournament tomorrow in Clearwater.

Herget's struggles with the Knights are to be noted if both teams get deep in the tournament: he's conceded eight earned runs in 8.2 innings to C. Florida this season, with just 18 earned against 80 innings to the rest of the schedule.

After some ninth-inning stress, the Bulls Tommy Peterson picked up his 15th save (which leads the AAC) via this 6-4-3 pitcher's best friend for the 5-4 victory:

The series win gave the Bulls the #4 seed in the double-elimination AAC Tournament at 13-11 in conference play, and Warren Nolan has the Bulls at #25 in the RPI. USF will face regular season champs & #5 Memphis tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Clearwater for the tournament lid-lifter, with the winner & loser then facing the winner and loser of either #1 Houston or #8 Cincinnati. Full preview on the tournament coming later today, but it's possible that USF still has work to do since the Bulls are just 6-12 vs. the Top 50 RPI.

The weekend also likely eliminated C. Florida from any NCAA at-large consideration, as they fell to #51 in the RPI. It's a precipitous drop for Terry Rooney's squad, who were ranked as high as #8 in the nation earlier this season.