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USF pitching dominates as Bulls complete sweep

USF celebrating Zech's walkoff on Sunday. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS.COM

Behind lockdown pitching, USF swept Army (7-12) over the weekend, winning 12-0 Friday, 5-2 Saturday and 5-4 Sunday.

The sweep extends USF’s (15-6) win streak to eight games, all of which have been played at USF Baseball Stadium. In the streak, USF has given up an average of just two runs per game.

On Friday, redshirt sophomore Shane McClanahan and sophomore Carson Ragsdale combined to throw a no-hitter against the Black Knights. It was the Bulls’ first-ever combined no hitter in program history and the 22 strikeouts between the two were a program record.

McClanahan threw six scoreless innings in the win, extending his now nation-leading scoreless innings streak to 30.2 this year.

“Both Shane (McClanahan) and Rags(dale) were extremely sharp tonight,” coach Billy Mohl said Friday. “They commanded the strike zone well with their fastball and were able to put hitters away with quality pitches when ahead in the count. All the credit goes to them both and I’m so proud of them.”

On Saturday, Peter Strzelecki didn’t allow the Black Knights to record a hit until there were two outs in the sixth inning. Army then rallied to push across two runs in the top half of the inning, but it wasn’t enough to take the lead as the Bulls had already scored a combined five runs in the first and fifth innings. 

“Every time Pete pitches, it feels like we play a two hour and fifteen-minute game,” Mohl said Saturday. “He pounds the strike zone, had no walks and 11 strikeouts. He gave up a few hits in the sixth, but overall he had good stuff and pitched well.”

Contrary to the prior two games, the Black Knights put pressure on the Bulls and threatened to end their 7-game win streak on Sunday, leading USF 4-3 in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom half of the inning, however, Chris Chatfield scored on a fielding error after Joe Genord hit a ground ball between the Black Knights’ first baseman’s legs. 

The score would stay tied at four until the bottom of the ninth when Garrett Zech hit a single to left field, scoring JD Dutka and securing USF a series sweep — it’s second of the season.

“That was huge,” Mohl said. “Second and third with a guy with a good breaking ball on the mound. He elevated one and Zech drove it into left field.”

The win-streak comes at a good time for USF, as it’s begin AAC conference play on Friday at home against Connecticut, which the Bulls lost two-of-three games to last season. 

“We’re in a good spot right now, guys are playing with a lot of confidence, feeling good about themselves,” Mohl said. “The real season starts next Friday. It’ll be a good matchup with Shane (McClanahan) and Tim (Cate) going against each other — two future first rounder’s. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

USF was in first place of the AAC for a majority of last season, but faltered down the stretch, dropping four of its last six conference games. In the AAC Tournament, as the No. 4 seed, it won its first game, but lost its next two, eliminating it.

Before the conference season begins Friday, USF has a non-conference game in Jacksonville against UNF (10-12), which the Bulls lost to 4-2 in their last game before the 8-game win streak. First pitch will be at 6:05 p.m.