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Bulls open season with sweep

The USF baseball team won three straight games over East Tennessee State this weekend to open a season with a series sweep for the first time in team history.

In their first 3-0 start since 1989, the Bulls, with an overpowering offensive display and a stable pitching staff, won the three games by a combined score of 22-12. The series, according to USF coach Eddie Cardieri, proved the Bulls can compete with good teams.

The USF starters, who were a question going into the weekend, kept the team in all three games. In Friday’s game, Georgia Tech transfer Kyle Schmidt pitched four shutout innings in his first start for the Bulls. Schmidt (1-0) struck out six and walked one. He left the game with a 3-0 lead, and USF held on for a 7-6 victory.

On Saturday, Tim Mattison pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings in relief to pick up the victory, a 7-4 win for USF. Sunday, freshman Nick Manganaro struck out three, holding the Buccaneers to two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 in his collegiate debut, an 8-2 win for the Bulls.

Closer Joey Livingston worked his way out a jam in the ninth inning of the first game to preserve the win. East Tennessee State had the go-ahead run in scoring position, but Livingston forced a pop-up to end the game. The junior recorded his 22nd career save.

At the plate, USF put on a power display that one might have expected. Myron Leslie, a pre-season all-Conference USA selection, capped a four-run fourth inning in Friday’s game with a two-run homer over the right-field wall. The home run would provide the game-winning margin for the Bulls.

Sophomore Matt McHargue also hit a crucial homer this weekend. In Sunday’s game, he homered over the left-field wall, putting the game out of East Tennessee State’s reach. Sophomore Kris Howell also had a big weekend, going 5-for-8 at the plate with a double and two RBIs.

“Their pitchers are giving them good stuff,” Cardieri said. “But our guys are tough enough to pull it out.”