TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – They agreed their team fits the definition of a “Cinderella team.”
The predictions put the University of South Florida Bulls at the bottom of the standings, the expectations hardly existed because they seemed irrelevant, and, if you thought they would become American Athletic Conference champions, you would have been benched without hesitation.
However, the USF baseball team flipped its fate and, consequently, extended its season.
“We talked about our two goals,” said Billy Mohl, the head coach of the Bulls, “winning a championship and getting to a regional and those guys accomplished that really with their backs against the walls and there is nothing more I can say other than I am proud as heck of them.”
The Bulls defeated the University of Central Florida Knights on Sunday to capture the title of American Athletic Conference champions and to earn a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
“It was really special what we did this past weekend,” said Jack Jasiak, a pitcher for the Bulls, “and I think we are going to take this momentum into this weekend.”
Jasiak will step onto the mound on Friday when the Bulls, the fourth seed, face the Florida Gators, the top seed, in the Gainesville Regional. The double-elimination event, which is composed of four teams, also includes the University of Miami and the University of South Alabama.
“I love going out there and competing,” said Jasiak. “Coach Mohl puts a lot of trust in me and I know the guys trust me out there to get the job done so it is going to be a good game on Friday.”
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” said Jake Sullivan, who is a catcher on the team, “so why not go out there and play our brand of baseball and play our best game and see what we can take away from this weekend?”
He fell in line with Jasiak when he stated this season has been the best season of his baseball career.
“For me, winning that tournament was probably the best experience I have had in my career, especially since we were picked last and the underdogs going in,” said Sullivan. “Nobody thought we could do it and we pulled it off and this group of guys deserves it more than anybody for sure.”
News Channel 8’s Gabrielle Shirley asked Sullivan for an original answer to an admittedly cliché question.
“Why is this team special?”
He laughed at it before he responded to it.
“It is the guys. It is each and every one of these guys. They are all my brothers,” said Sullivan.
He said he plans on having some of his teammates at his wedding. They share an unbreakable bond and, for Sullivan, that bond has brought them here.
The Bulls won their first conference tournament crown since 1995 when they beat UCF on Sunday. They will appear in their 14th NCAA Tournament in program history on Friday. If they can advance in the Gainesville Regional, they will appear in the Super Regional. A win there will send them to the College World Series.
“The stage might be different, the setting might be different but, at the end of the day, it is just like I told them before the championship game on Sunday,” said Mohl. “At the end of the day, you are fighting for your brother next to you and nothing else matters.”
“We ain’t done yet!” exclaimed Sullivan, “We ain’t done yet!”