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USF takes down Notre Dame in weekend series victory

Published: Sunday, April 1, 2012

Updated: Sunday, April 1, 2012 23:04

ORACLE PHOTO/BOBBY BISHOP

ORACLE PHOTO/BOBBY BISHOP

Derrick Stultz fires a pitch against Notre Dame. USF’s three starting pitchers combined to allow just seven runs in three games against the Fighting Irish.

In a hotly contested, well-played series between two eager Big East teams, the USF baseball team beat Notre Dame to win its second consecutive conference series.

After an extra-innings 8-3 loss to the Fighting Irish on Friday, the Bulls brought two strong performances, both on the mound and at the plate, to seal a series victory over a Notre Dame team that swept the Bulls last season. USF won the last two games 11-6 and 6-4.

“Last year, they’re a big reason why we didn’t make the tournament,” said junior outfielder Alex Mendez. “They swept us. It was good to come out after a tough game Friday. The way we responded Saturday and Sunday was great.”

Though the series began with left-handed pitching ace Andrew Barbosa getting the start and serving up 14 strikeouts in seven innings Friday, he gave up three quick runs and left USF down 3-1.

USF’s offense responded in the eighth inning with two quick runs to tie the game, but after trading shutout innings with the Fighting Irish the game entered extra innings. Notre Dame took full advantage in the 10th inning by scoring five runs on five hits, sealing an 8-3 win.

“The effort was there,” coach Lelo Prado said. “It was a great ball game, a great college game, but we’re not here for a great game. We’re here to win ball games.”

The Bulls went into Saturday’s game looking for those wins and gave the start to undefeated junior pitcher Joey Lovecchio, who came into the game with a sterling 5-0 record on the season.

Lovecchio worked 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and just two earned runs, before giving way to Nick Gonzalez and Adrian Puig. The two combined to allow three hits and two runs in another back-and-forth battle, in which Notre Dame erased a three-run deficit in two innings.

USF didn’t look back after Luis Llerena and Chad Taylor picked up RBI singles to take a 6-4 lead after six innings. The Bulls blew the game open in the seventh inning with five runs and Llerenaled the charge with a two-run double. USF took the second game 11-6.

“We had great at-bats with guys in scoring position,” Prado said.

Derrick Stultz took the mound for Sunday’s rubber game and pushed through seven tough innings of work, allowing seven hits and three runs, before Steven Leasure and Ray Delphey closed out the game.

The Bulls, playing from behind for the first time in the series, responded to a 2-0 Irish lead after three innings with three runs in the third and fourth innings, thanks to James Ramsay and Kyle Teaf, who each had RBI singles.

USF again sealed a close game in the seventh inning, with three runs scored thanks in large part to a bases-loaded double from Ramsay, who went 2-4 with three RBIs in the game.

“The last two days we’ve got some clutch hits,” Prado said. “You lose the first one and win the next two against a Notre Dame team that’s pretty good, that’s good for our program and team.”

USF plays Stetson at home  Tuesday night, before heading to Cincinatti for their first Big East road trip of the season.

Visit the Oracle's Multimedia page to view a photo gallery of this game.

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