USF got on the board first in the bottom of the third. Andrew Longley started the inning with a double to right-center, and two outs later Alex Mendez came through with a clutch single up the middle to pick up his team-leading 29th RBI.
The lead was short lived, as the Wildcats responded with a run of their own in the top of the fourth.
Bulls starter Andrew Barbosa (5-4) threw just 28 pitches and struck out six while sending the Wildcats down in order the first time through the lineup. Marlon Calbi then opened the fourth with a double down the third base line. Villanova capitalized, moving Calbi over to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scoring him on a sacrifice fly to right off the bat of Tyler Sciacca.
Villanova added some insurance in the sixth. Adam Nelson started the frame by laying down a perfect bunt single, which Daniel Rockhold charged and fired high to first. The throw sailed over the head of first baseman Jimmy Falla and one-hopped over the wall, allowing Nelson to move in to second on the error.
After a sac bunt moved Nelson to third, Calbi singled and Kevin Wager doubled, extending the Wildcats' lead to 3-1.
The Bulls got one back in the bottom of the sixth. With two down and runners at first and second, Chad Taylor hit a sharp ground ball to the shortstop Calbi, who made an impressive back-handed snag of the high hop, but fired low to first. The ball skipped past the first baseman Nelson, allowing Todd Brazeal to score from second on the play.
Despite a solid outing from Barbosa, USF managed only two runs on five hits for the game. Barbosa finished with three runs on six hits in eight innings of work, walking one while striking out 11.
USF will look to even up the series in game two on Saturday. Joey Lovechhio (7-1) will face off against Pat Young (4-3) starting at 6 p.m.