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Bulls handle Hatters in eighth-straight

Winning pitcher Ryan Valdes pitched six innings and struck out six against Stetson on Tuesday night. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/SEBASTIAN CONTENTO

USF extended its winning streak to eight Tuesday night, with a 5-2 victory over Stetson, and coach Mark Kingston expressed confidence in starting pitcher Ryan Valdes.

“To see the progress of our pitchers is very encouraging,” Kingston said. “Ryan threw a lot of strikes today, let the defense work when he had to and just kept them off-balance all night.”

The right-handed pitcher struck out six through six innings against the Hatters (12-10) and allowed two runs in his longest outing of the season.

“I’d definitely say the palm ball was working very well and the change-up,” Valdes said. “Getting ahead of hitters, that definitely is always a plus.”

Valdes (2-1), a junior transfer from State College of Florida, has steadily improved over his first four starts. Working with pitching coach Billy Mohl to add another pitch to his arsenal has helped him, he said. 

“(I) didn’t have that third pitch,” Valdes said. “That was definitely a struggle for me with the first start.” 

Valdes allowed two runs through three innings in that start in a loss to FGCU on Feb. 24.

The Bulls (14-6-1) faced five Stetson pitchers, but starter Will Whitlock (0-1) took the loss after allowing three runs through 2 2/3 innings. 

Catcher Levi Borders led off the second inning with a walk before first baseman Buddy Putnam drove him in with a double. With two outs, center fielder Austin Lueck’s solo home run to left-center put the Bulls up 2-0. 

Levi doubled in the third to score his brother, Luke Borders, who had walked and stolen second.

Right fielder Daniel Portales scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, and shortstop Kyle Teaf scored on another to cap the Bulls’ scoring in the sixth. 

Tommy Peterson notched his seventh save after striking out the side in the ninth. 

“The pitching and the defense have to be able to complement each other,” Kingston said. “I thought tonight they really did.”

The Bulls look to keep their momentum rolling tonight when they host FIU (9-11) at 6:30.