Legends On Deck

USF Bulls: The Cinderellas of the Super Regionals

When I wrote Florida College Baseball Preview 2021, back in February, USF was not on my radar.  The Florida Gators were preseason #1.  FSU and Miami were both ranked in the Top 25 and the buzz was with UCF out of the American Athletic Conference.  

Among the mid-majors, Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast had the attention in the Atlantic Sun and Florida Atlantic was generating interest in Conference USA.  I even wrote a follow up piece on FGCU and FAU in March, as they both racked up some impressive wins in the early season.  USF found a back door into the College Baseball tournament by winning the AAC tournament over UCF.  The AAC leading #10 East Carolina Pirates won the regular season title and are hosting a Super Regional.  The Bulls, however, are the lone survivors in the Sunshine State.  

The USF Bulls, on the other hand, were the late bloomers who captured the AAC tournament and found their way in as the bottom seed in the Gainesville Regional last weekend.  The Gainesville Regional included #15 Florida, Miami and South Alabama.  The Bulls got out to an early 2-0 lead last weekend.  Here’s how last weekend’s games came down:  

  • USF beats Florida 5-3   
  • USF beats Miami 10-2
  • South Alabama beats USF 4-0
  • USF beat South Alabama 6-4

In those four games, USF produced 21 total runs.  They benefited from the work of some of their biggest producers of the season, including Riley Hogan and Carmine Lane.  During the season, Riley Hogan (Orlando) hit 12 HR, 40 RBIs and batted .296.  Carmine Lane hit 11 HRs, 43 RBIs and .315 for the season.  They came up with some clutch runs in their victories in Gainesville.   Hogan hit over .500 for the weekend.  According to MLB.com, Outfielder Roberto Pena and RHP Brad Lord are top prospects to watch in the Super Regional, headed into the MLB Draft in July.

While the Bulls were a surprise in 2021, they are no strangers to the NCAA tournament.  However, it is their first ever Super Regional appearance.  They made made the tournament as recently as 2015, 2017 and 2018.  The 2018 team included LHP Shane McClanahan’, that year’s 31st overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays.  McClanahan has already worked his way into the starting rotation of the defending American League Champions.

In this weekend’s Super Regional USF squares off against the #2 Texas Longhorns in Austin.  The Longhorns are the heavy favorite, but that hasn’t intimidated the Bulls quite yet.  Game One takes place Saturday night at 9pm (ESPNU) and Game 2 on Sunday night at 9pm (ESPN 2/ESPNU).  Tune in to see if the Bulls can maintain their momentum all the way to Omaha.

**Picture from Tampa Bay Times**

Brian Koss
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