The USF baseball team is down to its last shot at clinching the Big East regular season title after falling 4-3 at Louisville in the opener of Friday’s doubleheader.

The win gives the Cardinals the series, but a victory in the series finale, which is scheduled to begin soon, will still give the Bulls the championship.

Shawn Sanford was steady for six innings, holding the Louisville bats scoreless, but gave up two runs in the seventh, forcing coach Lelo Prado to excercise his best option in the bullpen: staff ace Randy Fontanez.

Fontanez came in and steadied the storm, forcing a ground out, a pop fly and striking out Louisville’s Jeff Arnold to end the inning — but gave up a two-run homer to Chris Dominguez in the bottom of the eighth.

The Bulls tried to come back, beginning the ninth with three hits to cut the lead at 4-2 on a pinch-hit double by Brandon Smith. USF added another on a sacrifice fly by Peter Brotons, but sophomore Ryan Lockwood grounded out to end the game with the tying run on first.

The Cardinals were led by a stellar pitching performance from Dean Kiekhefer, who gave up only one earned run in eight innings of work.

The Bulls struck first in the fifth inning when freshman Todd Brazeal sacrifice flied to center, scoring Brotons, who began the inning with a single. Brotons finished with three of USF’s eight hits.

Teddy Kaufman is scheduled to pitch in the final game.

-K.K.

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