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Bulls host Florida Atlantic

Junior pitcher Matt Quevedo said that despite their 15-10 record, the  Bulls have reached the point in the season where they must play with a greater sense of urgency.

“That’s when we usually play our best, when we come out with that whole back-against-the-wall mentality,” Quevedo said. “We can’t lose any game. We have to win every game. We play our best thinking like that.”

USF will test that strategy when it hosts Florida Atlantic on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Bulls are 7-4 at Red McEwen Field this year.

Quevedo pitched six innings Sunday in the Bulls’ 5-2 win against Connecticut, giving up only one run. USF is tied for second with three teams in the Big East, but the Bulls feel their potential has yet to be reached.

“We definitely have room for improvement,” said junior pitcher Shawn Sanford. “It was kind of hard to swallow a few of the games we let slip away earlier this year, but we have to take it for what it’s worth. It will help us in the long run.”

Sanford is expected to make his team-high ninth appearance Wednesday, juggling both starting and closing duties. He’s made two starts this season.

“I’m a pitcher, not a closer or a starter,” Sanford said. “(Assistant coach) Lazer (Collazo) is the boss and when he tells me he wants me to pitch, I pitch. If my arm feels good, I’m going to go at 100 percent.”

Sanford picked up his third save Sunday at Connecticut, pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out three. He and sophomore Kevin Quackenbush have three saves apiece.

“The ball seems to be bouncing the right way for me lately,” Sanford said. “Hopefully, that will continue and I can have a good outing.”

Things have gone the right way for the USF offense this year. The Bulls are hitting .319 as a team, good for fourth in the Big East, and have 281 hits, which is second in the conference.

Despite the offensive numbers, coach Prado said his team needs to do better when hitting with runners in scoring position.

“We haven’t done a great job of that,” he said. “You know, like hitting a ground ball with the infield back and runners on. We have a lot of strikeouts, and that’s not good.”

Redshirt sophomore Ryan Lockwood has reached base in 68 consecutive games, batting .392 during March and raising his average from .120 to .323.

USF swept the season series from FAU last year, scoring 26 runs in two games.