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Bulls salvage series against Notre Dame

The South Florida baseball team gave up leads in its first two games this weekend, but Sunday the Bulls refused to let it happen again.

Junior Shawn Sanford gave up just two earned runs in six innings, Joe Cole picked up his third save of the year and USF averted a three-game sweep by beating Notre Dame 6-5 Sunday in South Bend, Ind.

“We could’ve easily lost that game,” said USF coach Lelo Prado. “We battled, had some good at bats, and kind of erased the taste from our mouths after the first two games.”

On Sunday, USF took leads of 3-1 and 5-3 but the Irish refused to go away. With the game tied 5-5 in the ninth, Bulls catcher Daniel Rockhold hit a game-winning RBI
single to put the Bulls on top 6-5. Cole pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two.

With the win Sunday, USF (31-19, 18-6) put itself in a prime position to win the Big East regular season championship and grab the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament. The Bulls can achieve both feats by winning one of the three games at Louisville, Prado’s former team, next weekend.

“We’re one step closer to our main goal,” Prado said.

On Saturday, the Bulls took a 6-0 into the fifth inning behind sophomore starter Derrick Stultz, but failed to put the Irish away, losing 7-6. Stultz gave up seven runs on eight hits in 8 1/3 innings of work.

On Friday, USF took a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning, but Notre Dame broke out late and won 8-5. Bulls’ starter Randy Fontanez finished five innings but left with cramps after giving up four earned runs on six hits.

On Sunday, however, Sanford turned around the performances in the pitching department.

“That was probably his best performance of the year,” Prado said. “He was on, he threw strikes, he got ahead of hitters. He pitched today. When he pitches, he’s pretty good.”

Sanford didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

“I threw a lot of fastballs and when I locate my fastball, I’m a lot more effective,” he said. “I felt like I was ahead of every hitter.”

This weekend is the first Big East series USF has dropped since Connecticut in late March.

The Bulls play a doubleheader Tuesday with North Florida, starting at 4 p.m. at Red McEwen Field. The teams’ first meeting was rained out Wednesday.