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Baseball racks up 15 hits on rival Central Florida

Despite getting off to a slow start, it didn’t take long for USF to return to form Tuesday night.

The Bulls (23-9) started their game against UCF with three scoreless innings before exploding for five runs in the fourth inning and another six runs in the seventh to defeat the Golden Knights (16-17) 11-4 at Red McEwen Field.

“We were having good at-bats up there – we just weren’t finding the holes (at first),” shortstop Walter Diaz said. “But we got that fourth inning together, and from there on, we took off. We played good defense, had a good game and got the win.”

Diaz extended his hitting streak to 14 games in the contest, going 2-for-6 with one run and one RBI. The junior shortstop was one of seven Bulls to record at least two hits against the Golden Knights.

Bulls starting pitcher Matt Quevedo earned the win, improving his record to 3-0 on the season. The freshman right-hander pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and three runs before being relieved by freshman Shawn Sanford.

Late in the game, Sanford escaped two bases-loaded situations thanks to a few stellar defensive plays, including one in which sophomore catcher Braulio Pardo caught a pop fly to end the inning, despite running into a fence next to the visiting team dugout.

After the game, Quevedo explained the importance of having quality defenders on the field.

“It helps tremendously,” Quevedo said. “I mean, when you have that confidence, knowing that you can let guys hit the ball and you know that the guys behind you are going to make the plays. I mean, that helps 100 percent and totally changes the way you pitch.”

Sanford earned five hits and one run in 2.1 innings of work and earned his eighth save of the season.

Coach Lelo Prado was pleased with the win and sees the victory as another step toward the postseason.

“When we figured out their starting pitcher and went with our gameplan, then we were successful,” Prado said. “We swung the bats, Quevedo did a good job for us and it’s a big win for us to continue to move toward that (NCAA) regional (tournament) bid.”

The Bulls will welcome West Virginia to Red McEwen field on Thusday for the start of a three-game series for which Prado is confident in his team.

“I think they’ll come out ready to play, and hopefully we’ll have a great weekend,” Prado said.