TAMPA – Jimmy Falla reached base on a walk-off RBI fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to give USF a 6-5 victory over Rutgers to remain undefeated at home in conference play and extend its winning steak to 14 games on Friday night at USF Baseball Stadium.
“If these guys finish the job tomorrow, they’ll do something that no one else has done and that's not lose at home in conference,” said head coach Lelo Prado.
Nik Alfonso led off the ninth inning with a standup double, Kyle Teaf moved Alfonso to second on a sacrifice-bunt before Alex Mendez and James Ramsay were both intentionally walked to load the bases for Falla to seal the win.
“He (Falla) did enough,” Prado said. “The guys are playing hard and something special is going on with these 35 guys and we have to keep it going.”
The Bulls jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. Jimmy Falla hit a RBI double and Putnam hit a two-RBI single. Falla went 2-for-5 with one run, two RBI’s and he hit his 21st double to tie assistant coach Chris Heintz for the seventh most doubles in a season.
“He (Falla) has done it all year for us,” Prado said. “He comes ready to play and he competes hard.”
The Scarlet Knights got two runs back in the fifth on a two-run homer to left field and took a 4-3 lead on a wild pitch followed by a RBI single in the sixth.
Zac Gilcrease hit a base clearing two-RBI double in the home half of the sixth to put the Bulls up 5-4 and Rutgers center fielder Brian O’Grady tied the game at 5 in the ninth on a bases loaded RBI sac-fly.
Left-hander Nick Gonzalez pitched four scoreless innings before giving up two runs on three hits, five walks and five strikeouts and reliever Chad Taylor earned the win pitching 1 1/3 innings. Taylor (2-0) gave up one run on two hits and one walk.
The regular season series finale against Rutgers is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at USF Baseball Stadium.
“I’m happy with the win,” Prado said. “We have to finish the job tomorrow.”