A 15-4 win on Thursday propels the Bulls to the semifinals for the second time in three years.
CLEARWATER (May 25, 2023) – For the second straight game in the American Baseball Championship, the University of South Florida Bulls (21-37) churned out a season-high 19 hits en route to a 15-4 victory in eight innings over rival UCF (33-25) on Thursday afternoon at BayCare Ballpark.
South Florida used a seven-run fifth inning to break the game open and advance to the tournament semifinals (Saturday at 9 a.m.) for the second time in three seasons.
True freshman Rafael Betancourt (Deltona) led the offensive barrage with four hits, including a home run, and three RBI. Fellow rookie Eric Snow (Forsyth, Ga.), redshirt junior Ben Rozenblum (Coral Springs) and senior Travis Sankovich (Uniontown, Pa.) had three hits apiece.
“Our guys continue to put quality at-bats together at the plate, battle with two strikes, and hand the baton to the next guy,” said head coach Billy Mohl. “The approach isn’t something new that we haven’t taught all year, but you’re seeing it click. Every hit, you see the confidence build, the energy grow and it’s contagious. We’re playing loose and having fun right now.”
USF struck first on Thursday after Jackson Mayo (St. Johns) reached base on a fielder’s choice in the second inning. Mayo stole second and came around to score on a two-out single by Sankovich. Betancourt blasted his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot to left-center field, in the third inning to give the Bulls at 2-0 advantage.
The Knights cut their deficit to 2-1 with a single tally in the bottom of the third inning and threatened to hang a crooked number on the Bulls by loading the bases in the fourth. UCF eventually tied the game in the fourth inning with an unearned run, but Austin Grause (Tampa) escaped further damage on the mound after entering the game from the bullpen for starter Lawson Gailey (Lavonia, Ga.).
Betancourt sparked the Bulls’ seven-run output in the fifth inning with a one-out single. Following a walk to Joaquin Monque (Weston), Marcus Brodil (Dunedin) singled to score Betancourt and break the tie. Rozenblum was next with a two-run single up the middle to make it a 5-2 affair. After walks to Mayo and Sankvocih, Bobby Boser (Wesley Chapel) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in another run and Snow cleared the bases with a three-run double.
UCF used five different pitchers as the Bulls needed just four hits to plate seven runs in the fifth frame.
Rozenblum stayed hot with an RBI-double in the sixth inning and Sankovich added a run-scoring hit to give USF an 11-2 lead. The Bulls made it 11 unanswered runs with two more in the top of the seventh inning with a sacrifice fly by Betancourt and an RBI-double by Monque.
Trailing 13-2 in the bottom of the seventh, UCF plated a pair of runs to extend the ballgame one more inning before USF added two more runs back to the lead to make it 15-4.
The freshmen, Snow and Betancourt, tallied run-scoring hits for the Bulls in the top of the eighth inning and fellow rookie Chandler Dorsey (Lakeland) recorded the final three outs of the game on the mound.
Gailey, one of four true freshmen to contribute on Thursday, allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits over 3.1 IP in a no-decision. Grause earned his first win of the season.
- The Bulls have tallied 38 hits over the first two games of the tournament – 33 have been singles.
- USF has launched 71 home runs this season – the most since 1997 (71).
- Boser extended both his career-best hitting (15) and on-base streaks (19).
- Snow leads USF with 20 multi-hit games this season. He recorded four RBI on Thursday and leads the Bulls with 45 RBI this year.
- Rozenblum is batting .667 (6-for-9) with five RBI over two tournament games.
- USF is just the second No. 8 seed in AAC Championship history to win each of its first two games. ECU also accomplished the feat in 2017.
The Bulls will either play ECU or UCF in Saturday’s semifinals at 9 a.m. A win would propel South Florida into the championship game on Sunday. A loss would force an elimination game between the same two teams on Saturday afternoon (game time TBD).
About USF Baseball
The USF Baseball program played its first season in 1966 and is entering its 58th season in 2023 under head coach Billy Mohl (sixth season). The Bulls have made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, including four since 2015, and earned their first-ever Super Regional berth in 2021. USF was ranked in the Top 25 by five different publications in the final 2021 polls, checking in as high as No. 16. The Bulls have won five conference tournament titles (3 Sun Belt, 1 Metro and 1 American) and six regular season championships (3 Sun Belt, 2 Metro and 1 C-USA). USF baseball players have been recognized with All-America honors 12 times, most recently with third baseman David Villar in 2018, and 18 have earned Freshman All-America accolades, most recently Drew Brutcher and Carmine Lane in 2021. Four Bulls were selected in the 2022 MLB Draft. Former 2018 first-round selection, Shane McClanahan, became the program’s first-ever MLB All-Star in 2022 and was the starting pitcher for the American League.
– #GoBulls –