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USF victorious in New York

The South Florida baseball team (26-24, 11-13) scored six runs in the top of the ninth inning and went on to get a vital 9-2 win Sunday against No. 21 St. John’s (39-11, 18-6).

The win keeps the Bulls above .500 and ties them for seventh place with the Villanova Wildcats (27-23, 11-13) in the Big East. The top eight teams in the Big East move on to the Big East tournament May 19.

USF freshman Derrick Stultz pitched the team’s first complete game of the season. Stultz allowed two runs, struck out six batters and avoided any walks.

After Stultz retired the first six batters, the Bulls went up 3-0 in the top of the third after a sacrifice fly by second baseman Jonathan Koscso drove in catcher Trey Manz. First baseman Joey Angelberger had a one-out single that drove in right fielder Mike Consolmagno and third baseman Charles Cleveland.

The Red Storm cut into the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when a single by right fielder Tim Morris made the score 3-2 with no outs. USF coach Lelo Prado opted not to go to his bullpen and stuck with Stultz, who made it out of the inning with no additional runs scored.

“I never thought about taking Stultz out of the game. He only got better after that second run scored,” Prado said.

Cleveland, normally a utility player off the bench for the Bulls, made the most of his start at third base by going 5-for-5 with five singles and scoring two runs in what was the first multi-hit game of his career.

Cleveland stepped up to the plate twice in the top of the ninth inning, in which the Bulls went up 9-2. He led off with a single, scored one of the Bulls’ six runs for the inning and singled again on his second at-bat.

“This is the Charles Cleveland we had been waiting for,” Prado said. “He played for the past two days and proved to be everything (the coaching staff) thought he would be as a player.”

The Bulls scored a combined seven runs in the previous 26 innings of the three-game series in New York, but they strung together five hits and two walks to put the game away for good.

The offensive outburst in the ninth inning was something the Bulls could have used in game two of a day-night doubleheader Saturday, as St. John’s came back from a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Red Storm shortstop Jeff Grantham took the first pitch over the left field wall for a solo walk-off home run to give St. John’s its fourth walk-off win of the year.

“We should have taken two out of three games in the series. There is no reason whatsoever to lose a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning,” Prado said. “We are one of the best teams in the Big East Conference, but we need to prove that with a complete effort throughout the game.”