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USF slams Cincinnati in series sweep

Buddy Putnam has six home runs over the past six games, including a grand slam Sunday. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Buddy Putnam’s walk-off grand slam Sunday put an exclamation point on the Bulls’ 10-run seventh inning, which sealed the sweep of Cincinnati. 

The Bulls won 15-4 by NCAA mercy rule, which states a game can end if a team’s lead exceeds 10 runs after at least 6 1/2 innings on a travel day. 

USF (20-8-1, 3-0) leads the AAC as the only undefeated team in conference play. The sweep also makes the Bulls 12-0 at home in March.

“You’re on top of the world when you end a game that way,” said Putnam after hitting his first career grand slam. “But a big part of baseball is coming back down and trying to keep a flat line of emotion — not get too up, not get too down.”

Putnam, who has six homers over the past six games, has made adjustments at the plate, coach Mark Kingston said. 

“All we did with (Putnam) was tweak a little bit in his follow-through to try to create more backspin and topspin, nothing major,” Kingston said. “He’s taking it and running with it.”

Putnam’s not the only Bull hitting for power, and Kingston said a few factors have prompted a more potent offense. 

“The guys are all a year older. They’re stronger,” Kingston said. “The new balls have definitely helped as well.”

This season, the NCAA introduced flat-seamed baseballs, that can travel up to 20 feet farther than the previous raised-seamed baseballs, according to 

Perhaps as a result, USF’s offensive numbers have ballooned since last season. The Bulls currently have 18 homers, five triples and 48 doubles, compared to the six homers, eight triples and 36 doubles they had last year at this time. 

Hard hits helped the Bulls in Saturday’s 4-3 walk-off victory. With two men on base and one out in the 11th, sophomore Andres Leal hit the ball deep down the right-field line to score junior Luke Maglich.

In Friday’s game, Maglich climbed the right-field wall to rob the Bearcats (6-19, 0-3) of a three-run homer in the ninth. 

The Bulls won 8-4  behind Jimmy Herget (5-1), who tossed six shutout innings with 11 strikeouts.  

“I came out, and the ball was really jumping out of my hand,” Herget said. “I was just trying to pound the zone and get ahead of hitters.” 

The Bulls embark on a five-game road trip beginning Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in DeLand against Stetson.