South Florida wins AAC baseball championship; ECU’s Norby named to all-tournament team

ECU Pirates

South Florida won the AAC tournament (AAC photo)

CLEARWATER, Fla. – South Florida captured its first American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship with an 8-7 victory over UCF Sunday afternoon at BayCare Ballpark.
 
With the win, the Bulls (28-27) automatically qualify for the 2021 NCAA Baseball Championship. The selection show will take place Monday, May 31 at noon ET and will air on ESPN2.
 
South Florida advances to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time as a member of The American and 14th time overall. USF is also the first No. 6 seed to win the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship. Both UCF and South Florida were making their first appearances in The American’s title game.
 
Tournament Most Outstanding Player Daniel Cantu had three hits and three runs driven in, while each of the first five batters in the Bulls’ lineup drove in runs.
 
Logan Lyle (4-1) was credited with the win after shutting down the Knights during UCF’s rally. Orion Kerkering earned his fourth save with a scoreless eighth and ninth. AJ Jones (4-4) took the loss after allowing six runs in 1.2 innings.
 
The Bulls jumped out to an early lead as Daniel Cantu took a 2-out, 3-2 pitch deep to left that also scored Roberto Pena and gave South Florida a 2-0 advantage.
 
USF then scored four in the second including a pair of RBI singles by Carmine Lane and Jake Sullivan. The Bulls kept the Knights off the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning as first baseman Riley Hogan made a diving catch with two outs and the bases loaded.
 
The Knights would get on the board in the bottom of the third as Josh Crouch led off the inning with his 15th home run of the season and fourth of the tournament, but Hogan would respond with his 11th home run of the season in the top of the fourth.
 
Alex Freeland doubled home Crouch in the bottom of the fifth and came home on a grounder by Nick Romano to cut the lead to 7-3. USF would again respond when Cantu doubled down the right field line to score Lane in the sixth.
 
The Knights cut the lead to one with a four-run sixth. Jordan Rathbone started the rally with an RBI single and was followed by Freeland hitting a 2-run double down the left field line. Crouch scored his third run of the game on an RBI groundout by Romano to close the scoring.
 
In the ninth, Kerkering got the first two outs before John Montes doubled to put the tying run on for UCF. Kerkering induced Gephry Pena to fly out to right to end the game.

Most Outstanding Player
Daniel Cantu, OF, South Florida
 
All-Tournament Team
Josh Crouch, C, UCF
Alex Freeland, IF, UCF
Gephry Pena, OF, UCF
Jordan Rathbone, OF, UCF
Connor Norby, IF, East Carolina
Daniel Cantu, OF, South Florida
Riley Hogan, IF, South Florida
Jack Jasiak, P, South Florida
Carmine Lane, IF, South Florida
Brad Lord, P, South Florida
Collin Burns, IF, Tulane

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