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Bulls fight off Irish

The Bulls capture their first road series of the season by winning final two games against Notre Dame.

Playing in its first road series of the season and for the first time outside of Florida, the baseball team took a while to adjust.

After falling 1-0 to Notre Dame in the series opener, the Bulls used consecutive late-inning rallies to capture the final two games of the series. USF has won both series in Big East Conference play this season, defeating Pittsburgh earlier in the year.

“At first it was weird – I remember at the beginning of the Friday game, Yuri Higgins asked me ‘You’re not starting today?’ and I said ‘Our lineup is on top’,” second baseman Dexter Butler said. “I told him, ‘We’re the visitors today, man’ and he said “Oh, yeah.”

This year USF (18-8, 4-2) had previously played only two road games this season as opposed to 21 home contests.

Notre Dame (11-11, 1-2) opened the home portion of its schedule over the weekend.

Higgins and Butler weren’t alone in their awkward feeling of playing away from Red McEwen Field.

“It hit me as we were walking out of the game (Friday) and everyone was wearing Notre Dame shirts,” pitcher Shawn Sanford said. “It’s just weird when you think about it, but it was a big accomplishment (winning the series) against Notre Dame.” On Sunday, the Bulls broke open a 2-1 game after Butler drew a bases loaded walk and Nick Cardari tacked on two more runs with a double to left center. With three more runs in the top of the ninth, the Bulls closed the series with a 9-1 victory.

Sanford earned his sixth save of the season after entering the game with the bases loaded in the seventh. The freshman struck out three of the nine batters he faced.

“It was a good weekend, we could have easily walked out of here (with a sweep), but we’ll take two out of three,” coach Lelo Prado said. “When you beat Notre Dame two out of three at their place, you’re doing something right. It’s a great way to start.”

Butler finished the afternoon going to 2-for-4 at the plate and extended his hit streak to nine games.

“Right now the entire team is just focused on hitting line drives and it’s worked out so far,” Butler said. “We weren’t hitting the way we were capable of before this weekend. So I think we made a conscious effort to change that and it worked.”

During the second game of the series, USF scored 11 runs in the sixth and seventh innings en route to a 13-10 victory. Butler recorded four hits and right fielder Josh Leroy drove in a team high three runs.

In each of the final two games of the series, the Bulls tallied nine hits. The offensive production is exactly what Prado has been looking for all season.

“When they come out and play the way we ask them to play, (we succeed). They’re getting it and starting to respond,” Prado said. “Hopefully this is the beginning of something good.”

Notre Dame won the series opener 1-0 on Friday behind a second inning home run from first baseman Mike Dury. Danny Ortero allowed only one run and didn’t surrender a walk in his 7.2 inning pitched. “Ortero pitched great, he just threw that one bad pitch (to Dury),” Prado said. “Guys have been stepping up and when you step up you always have an opportunity (to win).”After their first road series, the Bulls look forward to returning to familiar surroundings.

“It was a lot of fun to come out here to Notre Dame, you know they have a lot of prestige. We took a lot of pictures out here,” Butler said. “It was good to finally play somewhere else but I miss home already.”