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Lefty’s gem highlights series victory

Andrew Barbosa had his way against Cincinnati this weekend.

The junior pitcher struck out a career-high 16 in a three-hit, complete-game shutout Friday in a 5-0 win at Cincinnati (13-12, 2-4), helping the Bulls win two games in the series.

“It was unbelievable,” said second baseman Jonathan Koscso. “He was basically playing catch with (catcher) Eric (Sim) the whole game.”

The Bulls (13-15, 5-1), who saw junior Randy Fontanez dazzle with the third no-hitter in USF history a week earlier, got a near duplicate performance from Barbosa, whose 16 strikeouts were just one shy of a school record.

Barbosa didn’t allow a runner to reach third base and just two reached second base.

“Barbosa was just awesome. He was the difference,” said coach Lelo Prado after the win. “… He’s been a blessing for us.”

Barbosa struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings. In the ninth, sophomore third baseman Daniel Rockhold gave USF a 5-0 lead with a two-run homer.

In Saturday’s series-clinching win, the Bulls’ offense chipped away, scoring of total of six runs in five different innings, and senior Matt Quevedo got the win in his first start of the season.

“(Saturday was) a huge win, but we’re never really satisfied with two wins,” said Rockhold, who went 3-for-7 with three RBI and two runs scored this weekend. “We probably should have swept them.

“We’re getting a lot better as our record would show, but we have a long way to go. We can always be better.”

Now 5-1 in Big East play, the team is making up for a slow start, winning its last three series behind impressive pitching and a productive offense. USF is tied for first atop the Big East standings, though it’s still early in the season.

“I never want my guys to be satisfied,” Prado said. “We’re playing better, but we’ve got to keep it going.”

Redshirt freshman Alex Mendez made the most of his playing time, going 4-for-9 in the DH spot with two RBI and two runs scored. He also owns the highest average on the team in Big East play (.417).

“He’s gotten the opportunity, and he’s done the most with it,” Prado said. “He never hung his head when he wasn’t playing.”

Despite Fontanez’s complete game Thursday, USF dropped the opener 4-3.

Fontanez, Barbosa and senior lefty Teddy Kaufman have each pitched a complete-game shutout this season.

“You get runs on the board and you just go out there and do your job,” Barbosa said.