By KY-SHON HEPBURN
Special to GoUSFBulls.com
CLEARWATER - The Bulls played one of their best games of the season to avoid elimination in the Big East tournament Friday night.
USF put together a three-run fifth inning behind a homerun from Alex Mendez to knock off top-seeded Louisville, 6-2, to avoid elimination at Bright House Field.
"Today might have been the best game we played all year offensively, we were locked in," said head coach Lelo Prado. "We did what we had to do."
The Bulls will face UConn in another elimination game 1 p.m. Saturday in Clearwater. USF looks for redemption against UConn. The Bulls fell to the Huskies, 7-2, on the opening night of the tournament.
"We have to finish the job here tomorrow," said Prado.
The Bulls were able to get on the scoreboard first on a RBI single by Daniel Rockhold to score Luis Llerena and put the Bulls up, 1-0, in the first inning.
Louisville got on the board in the fourth inning on a solo shot by first baseman Zak Wasserman to tie the game at 1.
USF starting pitcher Matt Reed pitched four scoreless innings before giving up a run to the Cardinals.
"Hats off to Reed, he stepped up and did his job," said Prado.
USF kept their momentum going in the bottom of the fifth.
Andrew Longley and James Ramsay hit back-to-back singles and both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Alex Mendez followed with a three-run homerun to give the Bulls a 4-1 lead.
USF took a 6-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run homerun by Rockhold.
Mendez batted 2-for-4 picking up his third homerun of the season. Ramsay went 2-for-4 picking up his 28th multi-hit game and Rockhold nabbed his seventh homerun of the season to help lift the Bulls past Louisville.
"Rock had a great at bat, him and Mendez had big hits," said Prado.
USF reliever Austin Adams came in for Reed (5-3) in the seventh inning. The right-hander picked up his fourth save of the season pitching a solid 1 1/3 innings giving up no hits and no runs.
"I pitched well, but my guys made some great defensive plays," said Reed. "The guys on this team keep brining it everyday and give us a chance to win."
The Cardinals cut the Bulls lead in half in the eighth on an errant throw by the Bulls, but were unable to put up any runs. Adams walked the Cardinals right fielder Stewart Ijames in the bottom of the ninth, but he sealed the victory for the Bulls by getting Cameron O'Brien to strike out swinging.