USF moves to seventh in Big East standings

The South Florida baseball team (20-19, 8-10) tried to get back to .500 in the Big East and get its first sweep in two years as it battled the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-21-1, 5-9) in a Sunday morning matchup.

Rutgers won 5-4 in 10 innings, and USF head coach Lelo Prado felt the Bulls “gave the game away.”

In the bottom of the 10th inning, redshirt freshman pitcher Matt Stull got Rutgers shortstop Dan Betteridge to ground out to junior shortstop Addison Maruszak. Maruszak hesitated for a split second before attempting an unsuccessful inning-ending double play.

“We gave the damn ball game away. This wasn’t about the bullpen. It was about our ability to execute. We should be able to turn that double play,” Prado said.

Prado said he believes it all went back to the top of the ninth inning, when right fielder Brian Hobbs stood at the plate with a chance to add to the Bulls’ 4-3 lead. Hobbs struck out and left Maruszak stranded at third.

“We have to be able to get that runner in from third. There are no excuses to not be able to do that,” Prado said.

Rutgers went on to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning after pitcher Stephen Hunt – who pitched three innings in relief and was also the designated hitter – threw a wild pitch, allowing the tying run to score from third with one out.

“I want you to come in and step on somebody’s throat at the end of a game,” Prado said.

After Rutgers tied the game, the Bulls were in trouble in more ways than one.

USF’s starter, freshman Derrick Stultz, threw 96 pitches during five innings in which he allowed just one earned run, but had to leave the game because of soreness in his throwing arm before the sixth inning.

“He isn’t injured. We just wanted to be careful with him,” Prado said.

Stultz threw 121 pitches in his last outing.

Rutgers starter Jason Downey, a junior who was making his second career start in four years, pitched eight innings. Downey allowed four earned runs, three of them in the second inning, and retired 14 of the next 16 batters, keeping Rutgers in the game.

Rutgers had dropped the first two games of the series by scores of 6-3 and 7-5, making late rallies in both games.

With nine Big East games left on its schedule, USF stands at seventh in the conference. The Bulls are .044 percentage points ahead of eighth place Rutgers and one game ahead of the Connecticut Huskies.