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Baseball looks to extend its winning streak in Connecticut

GAME TIMEUSF (20-8, 4-2) vs. Conn. (10-10, 2-1)When: Today-SundayWhere: J.O. Christian Field

Pitcher Danny Otero is second on the team with 36 strikeouts. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/SEAN REED

Though the Bulls are riding a four-game winning streak, only two of the games were against a team with a winning record.

USF took two of three games from Notre Dame – something that will look good on its postseason resume – but struggled to sweep FAMU (1-27) during the week.

The Bulls won the second game by the winning run being walked home. Coach Lelo Prado was glad for the win and stated earlier in the week that winning non-conference games will help the team return to the NCAA regionals.

USF hasn’t been since 2002.

The Bulls now head up to Storrs, Conn. to face the UConn Huskies, who are 2-1 in Big East play, but just 10-10 overall.Even though second baseman Dexter Butler – who was this week’s Big East Player of the Week – didn’t extend his 10-game hitting streak, shortstop Walter Diaz moved his to 11 games.

Butler leads the team in batting with a .404 average and Diaz is right behind him at .394. Diaz also has a team-high 11 doubles and 43 hits and Butler is right behind with 38 hits.

The Bulls will send pitchers Danny Otero (4-4), Chris Delaney (5-0) and Yuri Higgins (4-1) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Higgins is coming off a seven-inning outing in which he had seven strikeouts – he leads the team with 47. Otero, a transfer from Duke, has the team’s lowest ERA with the most starts (2.79) and has 36 strikeouts.

The pitching staff has a 3.96 ERA with 208 strikeouts and 116 walks.

Despite the .500 record, Connecticut is no slouch. The Huskies have scored 118 runs this season and have three players batting more than .300 with at least 70 at-bats.Infielder Dennis Donovan leads the team at .402, with 35 hits, 14 RBI and two home runs. Outfielder Josh Farkes has a team-high four home runs, and infielder Matt Untiet is first on the team with 17 RBI.

The Huskies will send pitchers Mike Tarsi (2-1, 2.96 ERA), Dusty Odenbach (1-0, 3.94) and Greg Nappo (0-2, 5.28) to the mound in the three games, respectively. Tarsi leads the team with 16 strikeouts and 11 walks and has given up three home runs.As a team, Connecticut has a 5.62 ERA and has given up 125 runs, and USF leads the all-time series 13-4 with all the matches being played in Tampa.

Keep an eye on: Butler and Diaz. They are the only two players for whom Prado is really singing praises. Diaz digs for infield hits as the lead-off batter and could continue his streak. Butler, who started the season batting eighth, has found his way into the heart of the lineup, batting either third or at cleanup.