By KY-SHON HEPBURN
Special to GoUSFBulls.com
TAMPA - The Bulls were able to even the series against Pittsburgh and take sole possession atop the BIG EAST standings on Saturday.
Todd Brazeal hit his second home run of the series to help lift USF (24-12, 9-2) past the Panthers 6-5 giving the Bulls their best start since joining the BIG EAST in 2005 at 9-2.
"Proud of the way the guys fought back. We could have easily fell apart after yesterday's loss, but they battled back," said head coach Lelo Prado.
Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead in the first inning scoring two run on three hits. USF answered with a run of its own when Zac Gilcrease scored on a wild pitch by starting pitcher Ethan Mildren in the first.
The Bulls' offense came alive in the fourth inning.
Brazeal went 3-for-5 with a home run that helped put USF up 5-3 in the fourth. The senior homered for the third time this season.
"It was actually the same pitch too (as yesterday's), said Brazeal." "I knew with a base open he wasn't going to throw me any fastballs so I was just sitting on the off-speed and he hung one up and I just got all of it."
Joey Lovecchio (7-0, 2.78 ERA) settled in after giving up a three runs in the first inning. The right-hander gave up four runs on eight hits and struck out three batters in six innings.
"Lovecchio stayed in the game and kept it close and we got enough hits," said Prado.
The Panthers picked up a run in the eighth inning, but Nick Gonzalez forced Elvin Soto to groundout and Gonzalez was able to escape the inning without giving up any more runs.
Brazeal drove in an insurance run in the eighth inning and picked up his fourth RBI of the game when he singled to bring home Mendez and give USF a 6-4 lead.
"With Dan and Jimmy being out of the lineup, I knew I needed to step up. I was just happy to take on that role for these guys," said Brazeal.
USF's bullpen held Pittsburgh to one run in three innings.
Gonzalez allowed one run on two hits in 2 1/3 innings and Steven Leasure got Boo Vasquez to ground out to first base to get the save and seal the win for the Bulls.
"Tomorrow we face their number one guy. I told Derrick Stultz its time for you to be our new Friday night guy," said Prado with a smile.
The Bulls and starting pitcher Derrick Stultz hope to clinch the series against Pittsburgh at noon on Sunday.