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Bulls lose to slumping Knights

UCF 6, USF 3

University of Central Florida freshman Cody Allen made his career debut against the South Florida Bulls (15-16, 5-7) Tuesday night, but he looked like a veteran, leading his team to a 6-3 win that snapped the Knights’ seven-game losing streak.

“We just didn’t have any intensity tonight. We need to come out and play with intensity,” USF coach Lelo Prado said.

Allen (1-0) showed poise and control on the mound. He pitched eight innings, allowed three earned runs, struck out six and had no walks.

USF showed a lack of patience at the plate, as it grounded out into three double plays and let Allen stay deep into the game.

The last double play was induced by UCF closer Justin Weiss in the top of the ninth inning, with the Bulls down 6-3 but with runners on first and second, nobody out and cleanup hitter Brandon Smith representing the tying run at the plate.

Smith grounded out into a 4-6-3 double play that killed the Bulls’ rally. Left fielder Chris Rey struck out to end the game.

USF starter Matt Stull – who entered the game with a 2-0 record and a 1.93 ERA – looked lost during the first inning, as he let the first three Knights reach base and then hung a ball that UCF catcher Robert Lara hit out of the park to give UCF an early 4-0 lead.

Stull allowed six earned runs and eight hits, struck out one Knight and walked four before leaving the game after four innings of work – and a 6-2 deficit.

Stull allowed too many UCF hitters to put the ball in play and couldn’t manage to get his strikeout pitch working.

The USF bullpen, however, kept the Bulls in the game. Kyle Eastham, Zach Pietrzyk, Stephen Hunt and Shawn Sanford combined to allow two hits and zero walks during five innings of work.

“Sanford did a great job – he threw strikes and got the outs. The bullpen as a whole also did a great job,” Prado said.

Bulls right fielder Brian Hobbs, who entered the game hitting .239 (21-for-88) with 27 strikeouts in 30 games, was the lone bright spot offensively for USF. In the second inning, Hobbs hit his fourth home run of the season over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer that cut into the Knights’ lead.

“I hope that this is a sign that he is getting out of his slump, because it has been a long one,” Prado said.

Hobbs went 1-for-3 and struck out for the 28th time this season.

Up next for USF is a three-game series at home this weekend against the Louisville Cardinals that could determine the direction this season will take for the USF Bulls.