GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Bulls faced the No. 2 team in the country and didn’t flinch on Tuesday night.
Jimmy Falla hit a go-ahead RBI single in the seventh and Andrew Longley launched his second solo homer in the eighth to help South Florida hold off Florida 5-3 and snap a 12-game losing streak against the Gators.
“They’re the second-best team in America and we came out here and we played… We’ve got a group of guys that fight,” USF head coach Lelo Prado said, who recorded his first win against a top-10 team since joining the Bulls in 2007.
USF (28-14) didn’t waste much time jumping on Florida in its first victory against the Gators since May 11, 2005. Longley put the Bulls ahead with an RBI groundout in the second inning and Kyle Teaf made it a 2-0 lead with an RBI single before the frame was finished.
Longley started his power surge in the sixth when he gave USF a 3-0 lead with a homer to left-center field. Florida had a big answer for the Bulls in the bottom half in the inning when Nolan Fontana led off with a homer and Mike Zunino added a two-run longball to tie the game at 3-3.
Falla came through in the clutch in the seventh with a two-out single that scored Todd Brazeal from second. Longley’s 2-for-4 night was complete in the eighth when the senior connected with the first pitch he saw and put another ball over the wall in left-center field.
“We didn’t even need the [second home run] at the end, but it was great to have for myself,” Longley said. “The whole team was swinging the bat as well, not just me.”
Power provided the Bulls with a two-run lead, but an electric effort by five USF pitchers definitely was instrumental in the program’s first win against a team in the top 20 since a 5-2 decision against No. 18 Stetson on April 19, 2011.
Midweek starter Matt Reed gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits in 5.2 innings that gave USF the chance to relax a bit at the plate. Reed provided some humor before the game when he chatted with Prado about the pressure-packed chance to face the Gators.
“Coach asked me before the game if I was nervous. I said, ‘Coach, you threw me against the Yankees. I don’t think it gets bigger than that,’” Reed said, who faced New York in an exhibition earlier this season.
Usual Friday night starter Andrew Barbosa wound up with the win after relieving Reed and getting the final out in the sixth. Austin Adams followed with 1.1 scoreless innings, Nick Gonzalez kept Florida off the scoreboard for an inning and Steven Leasure locked up the victory by getting the final two outs, including a groundout by Zunino with the bases loaded.
“The bullpen did their jobs,” Longley said. “… I’ve been waiting to beat this team forever, which feels like 10 years. We haven’t beaten them, so it feels good.”