After dropping game one of the final series of the regular season Thursday night 10-7, USF baseball bounced back Friday to sweep the doubleheader against the Cincinnati Bearcats to clinch the two-seed in the upcoming American Athletic Conference tournament in Clearwater next week.
3B David Villar, OF Chris Chatfield, and 2B J.D. Dutka each recorded at least two RBI’s to help the Bulls (32-18-1, 14-9-1 AAC) outpace Cincy 8-6.
Villar got things rolling the first inning with an RBI-double to score SS Coco Montes, but the Bearcats would get a run of their own to knot the score at one apiece.
Chatfield singled home OF Duke Stunkel, Jr. in the third to give the Bulls the lead for good and Dutka brought two more home with a double down the left field line to give USF a 4-1 lead.
The Bulls scored two more times in the fourth inning for a 6-1 lead before Cincy scored three in the home half of the fourth and another run in the fifth to claw their way back into the game at 6-5.
Senior Peter Strzelecki didn’t have his best stuff, but was able to make it through seven innings to earn his team-high eighth win of the season.
USF tacked on two more runs in the sixth and the Bearcats made things interesting in the ninth against closer Andrew Perez with some help from a catcher’s interference call on Tyler Dietrich, an infield hit and single back up the middle to score a run to make it 8-6.
Perez settled down to retire the next two batters his face to record his 11th save of the season. Perez is tied for tenth all-time in single-season saves, and is alone in eighth place all-time for career saves with 18.
1B Joe Genord hit a two-run home run in the first inning, his 12th of the season, to give the Bulls an early lead. Dutka added another run to make it 3-0 before the Bearcats could even hit.
Stunkel drilled a solo shot to left in the second inning to give USF a 4-0 lead before Cincy got the run back in the home half of the inning. USF scored three more runs in the fifth to seemingly put the game out of reach at 7-2, but the Bearcats wouldn’t go away.
Cincinnati scored two unearned runs in the 7th to cut the USF lead to just 7-4. With two outs in the inning the rains came and caused a nearly three-hour rain delay. After the delay, the Bulls got out of the inning without giving up anymore runs.
USF added a run in the 8th to push the lead to 8-4, but a bases-clearing double by Cincy tied the game at 8-8 heading into the ninth.
OF Kyle Phillips led off with a double to left field, OF Garrett Zech struck out, and Dietrich advanced Phillips to third on a ground out. On an 0-1 pitch, Montes singled home Phillips and Perez shut the door for the two-inning win.
The Bulls will begin play in the AAC tournament on Wednesday at 11 a.m. against either Tulane or Wichita State.
If Tulane beats C. Saturday, the Bulls will face the Green Wave in the first game of the tournament for the second year in a row.
If Tulane loses AND Wichita State defeats Memphis, Wichita State becomes the #7 seed and will face the Bulls.
USF to 2-of-3 from Tulane in March and went 1-1-1 against WSU earlier this month.