USF collects 35 hits to take series win over Rutgers

Though the offense put together its most consistent weekend of the season, it wasn’t enough for the USF baseball team to earn its first Big East sweep of the year.

The Bulls (15-16, 5-4) welcomed Rutgers (12-18, 4-5) for a three-game series that got off to a quiet start with a 13-inning pitchers’ duel that USF eventually won, 2-1. The Bulls posted 14 hits in each of the remaining games, losing 11-6 Saturday before taking the rubber match with a 7-3 win Sunday.

“Offensively, that’s two games in a row where we’re swinging the bats and scoring some runs,” coach Lelo Prado said. “Hopefully … we’re taking one step forward, and we’ve gotta get ready for Stetson on Tuesday.”

Senior starter Randy Fontanez pitched eight solid innings, allowing just one run and striking out 10 in the series opener Friday night. The Bulls committed four errors in the game, one of which allowed the Scarlet Knights to score.

Relievers Kevin Quackenbush, Junior Carlin and Jimmy Moran combined to pitch five shutout innings. All six outs Quackenbush recorded came via strikeout.

After first baseman Todd Brazeal drew a walk in the bottom of the 13th inning, pinch runner Alex Mendez stole second before scoring the winning run on a single by James Ramsay.

On Saturday, USF starter Kyle Eastham was rocked for four runs in the top of the first inning, and the Bulls didn’t recover. They posted 14 hits, but stranded 10 runners on base in the game, losing 11-6.

USF returned the favor Sunday by sending all nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and scoring four runs of its own. The top four batters in the USF lineup all scored.

“To get momentum in the dugout is probably the biggest part of baseball,” Brazeal said. “To be able to have it, and not only that, but for our guys to be mature enough to keep it, was probably the biggest key point in the game.”

Brazeal went 1-for-3 on the day, with his hit coming in the first inning on a single up the middle that scored two runners. Leadoff hitter Jonathan Koscso reached base in all five of his at-bats, going 3-for-3 and also drawing a walk and being hit by a pitch.

“We hit pretty much all week,” Brazeal said. “I think we’re finally starting to click. Everyone’s starting to do their job and pull for each other a lot more.”

Starter Matt Reed earned his second win of the season, pitching six innings and allowing two earned runs.

The Bulls can improve their record to .500 against Stetson in Deland on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.