Pitching leads USF to sweep, first place

USF outfielder Junior Carlin fittingly used the word “incredible” to describe USF’s starting pitching in recent weeks.

The Bulls (16-16, 8-1) got three more stellar performances from their starters this weekend to sweep Georgetown (16-15, 2-7), and they now sit alone atop the Big East standings.

“It’s a good start. I still don’t think we’re playing as good as we can play,” said coach Lelo Prado of the team’s 8-1 Big East record. “Our pitching’s been outstanding, and that’s the reason we’re 8-1.”

The team has won all three conference series, but team members aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“We’re 8-1 right now, but we haven’t accomplished anything,” said Carlin, who went 4-for-13 in the series with two RBI and two runs scored. “8-1 is good right now, but next week it could be 8-4.”

USF has shown more intensity and explosiveness against Big East opponents compared to some of its mid-week performances. The Bulls have lost two straight mid-week games.

“It does feel like we come out with more intensity against Big East teams, but we would like to come out with the same amount of intensity every game,” said junior outfielder Stephen Hunt, who was 6-for-10 this weekend, raising his average to .394 in Big East games this season.

On Sunday, Hunt tagged a three-run homer in the third to give senior pitcher Matt Quevedo an early lead. The Bulls scattered three more runs from the fourth through the seventh, thanks in part to poor Georgetown defense.

Quevedo, who filled in for the injured Teddy Kaufman, allowed only one run on seven hits through 5 1/3 innings, improving to 2-0 on the season. Junior Randy Fontanez carried the Bulls on Friday, and junior Andrew Barbosa put in another good outing Saturday.

Fontanez struck out 10 batters, while giving up four runs and walking three in an 8-4 win. Fontanez, who has lacked run support in many of his starts this season, said it was great to get runs early. USF scored six runs in the first two innings.

“It was nice. If you’re up by six … it’s pretty easy to pitch,” he said.

Barbosa, coming off a week when he received Big East Player of the Week honors for his complete-game shutout at Cincinnati, struck out 11 batters in 6 2/3 innings, giving up only two runs on four hits and three walks in a 4-2 win. Barbosa has now struck out 27 batters in his last two starts, allowing just two runs in that span.

“The way they’ve pitched … it’s just incredible,” Carlin said.