Entering the ninth inning, the University of South Florida baseball team was down by six runs.
With two outs, they still trailed by four.
Three times, they were down to their final strike.
And the Bulls still won.
Ordinarily, the home series finale against the Toledo Rockets would be just a blip in a long season. But nothing about Sunday afternoon’s game was ordinary.
USF rallied for a remarkable 9-8 victory against Toledo, getting a bases-loaded, walk-off triple from James Ramsay, who was mobbed at third base by his teammates after the winning run scored.
“You kept hearing in the dugout, ‘Nobody makes the last out,’ and a lot of stuff people might consider corny,’’ USF coach Lelo Prado said. “But we kept battling, kept getting hits and it happened for us.
“They battled their tails off to score six runs. That’s hard to do. I don’t care if you’re hitting it off a tee. That’s hard to do.’’
Especially after USF had labored to do anything offensively. The ninth inning was a different story. The Bulls patched hits and walks together. Freshman Levi Borders drove in two runs with a one-out double. Nik Alfonso collected a two-out RBI. Two more Bulls got singles and the bases were loaded for Ramsay, the ninth USF batter in the inning.
Ramsay drilled a long fly ball to center. Toledo’s Ben Hammer dove, missed and the ball rolled to the wall. Three runs scored and it was over.
Prado was thrilled by the win – at least until Sunday night. He knows the Bulls have been imperfect – in fact, they failed to follow up, losing Tuesday night against Boston College 10-4 – so he’s preaching perspective. But even he could appreciate the improbability of Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve got to get our pitching squared away and we’ve got some things to clean up on defense if we’re going to have the nice season we’re expecting,’’ Prado said. “But what happened against Toledo, that doesn’t happen a ton of times. We’ll take it and we’ll hope some better things are ahead.’’
Jose Fernandez’s women’s basketball team (20-9, 9-7) can gain some revenge – along with solidifying its chances for an NCAA tournament at-large bid – when the No. 8-seeded Bulls meet No. 9 Rutgers (16-13, 7-9) in Saturday’s Big East Conference tournament at Hartford, Conn.
Rutgers defeated USF 68-56 last week when Scarlet Knights coach C. Vivian Stringer captured her 900th career victory. Beating Rutgers might be enough to put the Bulls into the NCAA’s 64-team field. USF would advance to face top-seeded Notre Dame (28-1, 16-0) in Sunday’s quarterfinals.
It’s only the third time a USF women’s team headed to its conference tournament with 20 victories. The 2005-06 Bulls, the only NCAA tournament team in program history, had 21 victories during the regular season. The 2008-09 Bulls, who won the WNIT championship, had 23.
When USF football coach Willie Taggart hired Miami Central High’s Telly Lockette as running backs coach, CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman got a ringing endorsement from Luther Campbell, the Miami-based rapper/youth football coach. “He will be able to get any kid out of South Florida that he wants,’’ Campbell told Feldman. “Every coach down here will support him 100 percent. USF just made a power move.’’
Nearly 300 people turned out Monday night at the Bradenton Area Convention Center to welcome Taggart back to his hometown of Palmetto. Taggart received the key to the city from Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. …Ken Eriksen’s softball team was 9-10 entering Wednesday night’s home double-header against Central Michigan. Last year, when the Bulls reached the Women’s College World Series, they had 10 losses the entire regular season.