CLEARWATER — University of South Florida sophomore right-hander Jimmy Herget pitched brilliantly on Friday afternoon, defeating the No. 5-ranked Louisville Cardinals 2-1 and suddenly giving the Bulls a very plausible route into Sunday’s American Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament championship game at Bright House Field.
If USF (27-30) defeats Memphis in tonight’s conclusion of pool play at 7 — and if Louisville (44-15) beats Rutgers in the preceding afternoon game — the Bulls will play for an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals on Sunday. USF would advance based on its head-to-head victory against Louisville.
If Rutgers downs Louisville, USF would be eliminated because of its 10-0 loss against the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday night.
“Go Cards,” USF coach Lelo Prado said with a smile. “We’ve got to take care of our business and pull for Louisville. That’s a good team to pull for, one of the best teams in America.”
USF surged ahead on Kyle Teaf’s two-out RBI single in the third inning and Luke Borders’ RBI single in the fourth. Herget (8-6, 1.24 ERA) was dominant, allowing just six hits in a 106-pitch, complete-game performance.
On the eighth inning’s first pitch, Herget was aided by a spectacular catch from left fielder Buddy Putnam, who leaped to grab Zach Lucas’ long fly ball at the top of the wall. Herget escaped from a first-and-third situation by striking out cleanup hitter Alex Chittenden.
Louisville’s Grant Kay led off the ninth with a single, but he was quickly erased by USF catcher Levi Borders on a steal attempt.
“It was a must-win mentality,” Herget said. “I knew I had to pitch like the season depended on it. I felt like the (eighth inning) was the turning point. If I didn’t get out there with no runs, I don’t know what would’ve happened at the end of the game. I just wanted to pull through and battle for my team.”
Prado, the eighth-year coach, steps into a USF administrative job at season’s end.
“I made my decision and when it (final game) happens, it happens,” Prado said. “I just want the guys to win for them, not me. This has never been about me. It’s about USF.”