TAMPA – When the University of South Florida Bulls defeated Notre Dame 8-2 in 19 innings on Friday night – the five-hour marathon was the longest game in USF baseball history – coach Lelo Prado had a telling postgame comment. “There is something special going on there and I'm not trying to figure it out,'' he said. Good thing. The resurgence of USF baseball (32-16, 15-3 Big East Conference) has often defied convention and belief. It has been something to enjoy, not dissect.
Friday night, Alex Mendez smacked a two-out, two-run, ninth-inning double off Notre Dame closer Dan Slania to force extra innings. The Bulls eventually won it with a six-run outburst in the 19th inning. Not to be overlooked was 12 consecutive shutout innings by USF's bullpen (Lawrence Pardo, Chad Taylor, Janick Serrallonga, Adrian Puig and Steven Leasure). Saturday, USF defeated the Fighting Irish 4-3 in 10 innings. It was the Bulls' eighth straight extra-inning win and their 11th consecutive victory in Big East play. Pitching has been the largest part of USF's Big East success. The Bulls' staff has a 2.65 ERA in conference games. Meanwhile, James Ramsay is batting .373 in Big East play, while Jimmy Falla has 20 RBIs in 18 conference games. USF is tied with Pittsburgh (36-11, 15-3) for the Big East lead, while Louisville (37-10, 14-4) is lurking one game behind. Each team has six conference games remaining. USF travels to Seton Hall (30-16, 13-5) this weekend, then finishes at home against Rutgers (22-25, 10-8). This weekend, Pittsburgh hosts Villanova (11-36, 2-16), while Louisville is at Connecticut (28-21, 9-12). Pittsburgh concludes the regular season at Louisville. USF continues to improve its Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) – it's up to No. 52 – but a more dependable measure is winning the Big East tournament, set for May 22-26 at Clearwater. A tournament championship would assure USF's first NCAA Regional appearance since 2002. Bailey shines Graduate student Aireonna Bailey, a transfer from Indiana, was named women's outstanding performer of the meet during the Big East Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Rutgers University. Bailey captured the 100 meters (11.48) and 200 meters (23.40), while running legs on the third-place 4x100 relay and fifth-place 4x400 relay. Other USF champions: Neaman Wise (men's long jump, 25-6 1/4); Monique Williams (women's triple jump, 42-8 3/4); Matthew O'Neal (men's triple jump, 52-5 1/4); Derrick Hopkins (men's 100 meters, 10.38); and Hopkins, Kevin Bell, Roshard Williams, Landon Hargrove (men's 4x100 relay, 40.82) The USF women were third overall and the men were fourth. Individual qualifiers will advance to the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds on May 23-25 at North Carolina A&T. Bulls bits Four USF football players – PK Maikon Bonani, RB Lindsey Lamar, LB Mike Lanaris and TE Evan Landi – were named to the National Football Foundation's Hampshire Honor Society. It requires a cumulative 3.2 grade-point average during a four-year career. Players must be starters or significant substitutes going into their final season. … Last week's Big East men's golf tournament championship received maximum exposure in New York. An image of USF's team, holding the Big East championship trophy, was featured on an electronic billboard in Times Square at the American Eagle Outfitters main store on the corner of 46th Street and Broadway. The image was shown eight times per hour in 30-second intervals. That site gets an estimated 100,000 visitors each day. USF is the 11th seed in the 14-team Tallahassee Regional, hosted by Florida State University. It begins next Thursday at the Golden Eagle Golf and Country Club. … ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson has USF football No. 5 in her post-spring rankings for the American Athletic Conference (rebranded Big East). The complete list: 1. Louisville; 2. Cincinnati; 3. Rutgers; 4. UCF; 5. USF; 6. Houston; 7. SMU; 8. Connecticut; 9. Temple; 10. Memphis.