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Bulls salvage series with Sunday win

Published: Monday, April 23, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 00:04

ORACLE PHOTO/TONY GORDON

ORACLE PHOTO/TONY GORDON

Fifth-year senior Derrick Stultz helped USF avoid a sweep with a strong performance Sunday, improving to 6-1 on the season.

Despite a rough weekend against Louisville, the USF baseball team did enough in one day to save its spot as the top team in the Big East — albeit in a three-way tie with Connecticut and St. John’s.

In the first two weather-ridden days of the weekend series, the Bulls (27-14, 11-4) were handed a 6-5 loss by the Cardinals (28-12, 10-5) on Friday night, and followed that with a listless 12-1 outing Saturday before the game was delayed till Sunday in the bottom of the seventh.

USF’s offense responded Sunday when, after finishing off their 11-run loss in the second game and guaranteeing their first series loss of conference play, the Bulls used a big sixth inning to stave off a sweep with a 5-1 win and, in the process, remain in first place.

“Well, we can’t be satisfied,” coach Lelo Prado said. “I think we should’ve taken two out of three. We gave the first game away, but we’re in first place with four weeks left in the season, so we just have to keep working.”

Derrick Stultz took the mound during Sunday’s game three, hoping to prevent the first sweep of the season for the Bulls. The redshirt senior shined on his way to his sixth win of the season, working eight strong innings while allowing just one run, in the seventh.

“This may have been his best game since he’s been at USF, against a good team,” Prado said. “The team needed him, and he came through today.”

A big sixth inning was key for the USF offense, when the Bulls scored four runs on two hits and three walks. Kyle Teaf got things started by drawing a one-out walk and scoring two batters later on a single from Luis Llerena.

After Daniel Rockhold loaded the bases with a walk, Todd Brazeal drew a run-scoring walk of his own, followed by a two-run single from Jimmy Falla to complete the scoring. Alex Mendez chipped in a RBI single in the seventh as well.

“I’m just proud of the way that the guys responded after they dropped the first two, kept themselves there with four weeks to go, so feeling good,” Prado said.

Sunday’s win was a momentum builder, but it couldn’t replace the damage done by the two losses to start the series. USF began the series Friday night with its ace, Andrew Barbosa. The senior went 6.1 innings while allowing three runs.

In a game that went back and forth between two conference heavyweights, the Bulls picked up what looked like the game-deciding runs in the bottom of the eighth, when back-to-back RBIs gave USF the 5-4 lead. The lead didn’t last long, however, as Austin Adams gave up two runs in the ninth to seal the 6-5 loss.

Game two of the series was ugly for the Bulls, who were outhit 13-3 and outscored 12-1. Joey Lovecchio, who entered the game 8-0 on the season, allowed eight earned runs in 2.2 innings, being charged with his first loss of the season.

The Bulls will look to make a mark on the national stage this week, with a game against top-ranked Florida on Tuesday night, followed by a weekend home series against Villanova.

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