GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — South Florida posted the biggest upset on the first day of the NCAA baseball tournament, knocking off the Florida Gators as the bottom seed in the Gainesville Regional.
Four of the seven No. 3 regional seeds that played early Friday also won. But no game more than the Bulls’ 5-3 win over Florida portended surprises sure to come in a year when fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for the Division I Baseball Committee to evaluate teams and set up the bracket.
The Bulls ended the regular season 24-26 after being picked last in the American Athletic Conference, and they had to win their league tournament to get into the NCAAs.
The Gators had won 19 of 21 meetings with the Bulls in Gainesville, Florida, and had beaten them in the national tournament in 1996, 2015 and 2017.
But Florida (39-20), which also lost its regional opener in 2019, couldn’t sustain any offense against four USF pitchers. The Bulls (29-27) have won seven of their last eight.
“We’re definitely playing well at the right time,” catcher Jake Sullivan said. “What we’re doing more than anything is playing for each other. We’re not worried about who’s on the other side of the field, who’s in the stands, where we’re playing.”
It was the second straight NCAA Tournament that opened with a No. 4 regional seed from the American Athletic Conference winning its opener. Cincinnati beat Oregon State in 2019. There was no tournament in 2020 because of the pandemic.