TAMPA ― The USF baseball season will remain relevant for another day.
Question now is, will the Bulls live to see another week?
Behind junior right-hander Collin Sullivan’s complete-game two-hitter, the Bulls (26-26, 8-15) staved off season elimination with a 2-0 victory Friday against Wichita State (25-29, 8-15) in Game Two of the best-of-three series.
The winner of Saturday’s 1 p.m. rubber match earns the final spot in next week’s eight-team American Athletic Conference tournament.
“These seniors, tomorrow means everything to 'em,” said Bulls coach Billy Mohl, who likely throws senior right-hander Alec Wisely (3-4, 4.91 ERA) in the series finale.
“You’ll see a lot of fight out of this team tomorrow.”
If the Bulls get a pitching effort anywhere near the level of Sullivan’s, their chances are solid.
“He was phenomenal,” Mohl said.
The 120-pitch effort included seven strikeouts, three walks and astounding efficiency. Sullivan retired the first nine batters he faced, and needed only 55 pitches to get through the first five innings.
“He just had good command all night of all three pitches,” Mohl said. “The slider was probably his third pitch, but the fastball-changeup all night, he did a good job mixing and forcing contact and that’s what we ended up with.”
Helping Sullivan’s cause was some nifty defense.
Wichita State put runners at the corners with one out in the fourth, but Jordan Santos caught a line drive at second base. Shortstop Alex Bello then snagged a sharp grounder in the hole and spun around to make the throw to first.
“I think coming out today, everyone knew what was on the line,” Sullivan said. “So we all just went out there and put everything we had in the game, and we’ll do the same tomorrow.”
Offensively, the Bulls gave Sullivan all the run support he’d need in the fourth.
Santos and senior Joe Genord led off the inning with consecutive singles before senior Chris Chatfield hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Freshman designated hitter Julio Cortez followed with an at-bat that might have helped preserved the season.
Rallying from an 0-2 count, Cortez fouled off six pitches before ultimately drawing a walk on a 12-pitch at-bat. Austin Bodrato followed with a two-run single to right field.
“Ever since (Cortez) got his name called to be in the lineup every single day, he’s come through,” Mohl said. “No situation’s too big for him and that was a big (at-bat) for us.”
The at-bats will be even bigger Saturday.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.