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April 8, 2013

Bulls Cage Panthers for Second Conference Sweep of the Season

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The Bulls showed a knack for the dramatic over the weekend against the Panthers. The USF baseball team swept one of the top teams in the Big East, capping off the series with back-to-back walk-off wins on Saturday and Sunday.

USF started off the weekend with a thrilling pitchers duel, defeating Pittsburgh 1-0 on Friday night. USF starter Jimmy Herget and Pittsburgh's Ethan Mildren each dazzled, throwing complete games. Herget was nearly unhittable, throwing a complete game, three hit shutout and struck out four. The Robinson High School product was the first freshman to throw a complete game for the Bulls since Derrick Stultz did in 2009. Mildren stuck with Herget pitch for pitch; the Pittsburgh righty matched Herget with a complete game of his own, allowing an unearned run on six hits while striking out six.

The Bulls scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the first inning. Alex Mendez reached on a fielding error by Pittsburgh second baseman Ronald Sucre and later scored on Jimmy Falla's RBI single to center field.

Neither offense could get anything going after the first inning. Pittsburgh threatened in both the eighth and ninth innings, but lined in to double plays to end the threat.

The Bulls clinched a series win over the Panthers on Saturday night with a dramatic 7-6 victor over the Panthers. USF used three runs in the ninth inning to walk off with the game and their third straight win. USF junior Nick Gonzalez didn't have his best stuff, but kept the Bulls close throughout his outing. The lefty battled his way through 6.2 innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits and struck out ten. USF rallied late, scoring five runs after the sixth inning.

The Bulls capped off the game scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth. The inning started when Nik Alfonso was hit by a pitch and Kyle Teaf followed with a single to right field. USF senior Alex Mendez put down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, moving the tying run into scoring position. Ramsay was intentionally walked to load the bases, brining up Falla, who worked a run scoring, RBI free pass to move the tying run to third base. With Buddy Putnam at the plate, a wild pitch scored Teaf, leading Pittsburgh to intentionally walk to Bulls' pinch hitter. With the bases loaded and the game winning run at third base, Pittsburgh reliever Casey Roche hit USF thirdbaseman Zac Gilcrease on the right knee to give the Bulls the walk-off win.

USF entered Sunday's contest with a chance for their second conference series sweep of the season. The Bulls got a quality start for senior righty Joey Lovecchio, who threw seven innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits and struck out nine Panthers.

The Bulls picked up an early lead with a run in the bottom of the third inning, but the Panthers scored two late off Steve Shelensky's two-run, Big-East-leading, ninth home run of the season. The Bulls put up a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game at two runs each.

USF would walk-off for their second straight game after Gilcrease doubled to start the ninth and was sacrificed to third by Alfonso. Teaf was intentionally walked to set up runners at the corners and Mendez followed with a walk to load the bases. Ramsay stepped into the box and singled to right field off Pittsburgh reliever Joe Harvey to win the game and cap off the sweep for the Bulls.

The win kept the Bulls in a tie for first place in the Big East with Louisville. The Bulls and Cardinals each sit at 7-2 in conference play, but do not play each other in a regular season series this year. Next up, the Bulls play in-state rival UCF on Wednesday night at the USF Baseball Stadium. The Bulls defeated the Knights 6-4 on February 26th in Orlando and will look to sweep the Knights in a season series for the first time since the 2009 season.



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