CLEARWATER, Fla.-- In a day that saw some of the BIG EAST Conference's top pitchers get touched up in the first three games of the tournament, the Wednesday night cap was the definition of a pitcher's duel.
Unfortunately, for the Bulls and starter Randy Fontanez, they would ultimately fall short as the University of South Florida (25-31) as St. John's would down the Bulls with a walk-off single for the second time in as many meetings between the two schools.
The loss forces USF into a elimination game with West Virginia at 5 p.m. Thursday evening at Bright House Field.
The Red Storm got their first two batters aboard in the bottom of the ninth, and after a fly out to left, St. John's got a game-winning RBI single by Sean O'Hare to take the game from the Bulls, 3-2.
"We have to hit. Give their pitchers credit, but we had them on the ropes. We had the bases loaded with one out, and we hit a line drive, so you can't fault the kid, but we can't get picked off there," said USF head coach Lelo Prado.
USF got 8.0 innings of work from All-BIG EAST Second Team Randy Fontanez who allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out eight and walking just two, but took his seventh loss of the year.
St. John's starter Kyle Hansen matched Fontanez all night as he lasted 8.0 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out eight and walking just one.
USF jumped out to an early 1-0 lead as Hunt laced a double down into the right field corner to bring around Jonathan Koscso to plate the games first run.
Fontanez would cruise through the first 5.0 facing three above the minimum. The Red Storm finally got to Fontanez in the sixth as they used three straight singles with the final hit in sequence tying the game at one all.
The score remained even at one until the bottom of the eighth.
With two outs and the bases empty, St. John's second baseman Matt Wessinger sent the first pitch of the at-bat over the fence in left to give the Red Storm a 2-1 advantage.
Down 2-1 heading into the ninth and looking for their second consecutive come from behind, the Bulls seemed to be well on their way to retake the lead after a Todd Brazeal RBI single scored Stephen Hunt, who singled up the middle to start the inning, to tie the game at two.
After Junior Carlin walked with one out to load the bases, Chad Taylor's sharp liner found the outstretched glove of St. John's second baseman Wessinger, who then doubled off Brazeal at second to end the inning and the Bulls' threat.
USF will move on to face No. 8 West Virginia at 5 p.m. in an elimination game on Thursday night. Lefty Andrew Barbosa will take the mound for Bulls.
With the loss, USF is 6-9 all-time in the BIG EAST Championships... After being hit by a pitch in the first inning, Koscso is just one shy of the school record with 54 career hit by pitches... Daniel Boyd (1999-2001) holds the record with 55... Hunt's first inning double was his team leading 20th double which ties him for ninth with five other former Bulls for most in a single season... With his eight strikes on the night, Fontanez has 105 on the season good for a tie for seventh on the school's single season strikeout list with Scott Glaser... St. John's used a walk-off hit to down the Bulls in the series finale in Queens early.