Rain doesn’t dampen baseball team’s victory

First baseman Brandin Daniel hit a two-run home run and finished the game 2-for-3 with three RBI. ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REED

The game ended wet.

But it also ended with a win.

The ball and the field were slippery thanks to rain, but USF (24-9, 7-3) pulled out an 8-5 win over Big East foe West Virginia (17-9, 3-4) on Thursday at Red McEwen Field.

Coach Lelo Prado, however, knows the Mountaineers can come charging back this weekend.

“It’s a huge win for us, but we did a lot of stupid things in this game,” Prado said. “We have to do a better job tomorrow because they’ll bounce back and beat us both days.”

The Bulls rode a complete game from senior pitcher Danny Otero (6-4), who gave up just four earned runs on 10 hits and struck out eight.

“He’s a senior and he’s been through (situations) before,” Prado said. “His pitch count was down (85 after seven innings) and (his outing) is what we expect from him. We want him on the mound and he wouldn’t be the No. 1 starter if we didn’t.”

Otero, who leads the team with 52 strikeouts, said he just wanted to keep the Mountaineers off the board, since WVU was a team batting .331 coming into the game.”My offense did a great job – put up eight runs behind me,” said Otero, who transferred to USF from Duke for his senior season. “I was just trying to make sure I didn’t give up nine runs.”

Senior pitcher Danny Otero threw a complete game with four earned runs, 10 hits and eight strikeouts, giving him a team-leading 52 strikeouts. ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REED

First baseman Brandin Daniel added his team-high fourth home run – a two-run shot off starter Matt Yurish – and went 2-for-4 with three RBI. Shortstop Walter Diaz extended his hitting streak to 15 games and pushed his team-high batting average to .404.

Prado knows how important Diaz has been to the lineup.

“We don’t have a real third or fourth hitter,” Prado said. “We’re just piecing (the batting order) together … but Diaz gets on base and he’s done a great job for us so far this year.

“When he gets on base (as leadoff), it makes things happen. He’s kind of the catalyst on the team where, if he comes out ready to play, the team comes out ready to play.”

Shortstop Walter Diaz extends his hitting streak to 15 games with a single in the second inning. ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REED

Even if Diaz is the one setting the offense in motion, the junior transfer from Miami claims the streak isn’t on his mind.”I’m just trying to get one base,” said Diaz, who has a team-high 55 hits. “I’m not thinking too much about it – I just want to get things started for us.

“I try not to get beat by a pitcher. If I get beat, I feel their team gets momentum. If I beat him, then we get momentum. But if I get on base, I know I can make things happen with speed.”

Otero realizes how valuable Diaz has been at the plate.

“Whenever you have your shortstop as your leadoff batter – he’s basically the most important defensive player on the field besides the catcher – and he just starts off the game,” Otero said. “Diaz sets the tone real well, and when he goes, we all go.”

Prado has said before that he will have the team play small ball – bunting a lot, lots of hitting – but mentions that it’s not only his style of coaching, but it’s also imperative for the Bulls to succeed.

“We have to play that way,” Prado said. “I believe in putting pressure on the other team. … And that’s the way we’ve got to play because we don’t have a lot of power. We got a big home run today out of (Brandin Daniel), but we’re not a home run-hitting team – look at our stats.”