TAMPA - USF coaches knew Derrick Stultz was ready to take the ball on Sunday and he didn't give it back to them for quite a long time.
The senior right-hander gave up only one run in eight strong innings against a potent Louisville lineup to help the Bulls take the final game of the series, 5-1, before a crowd of 979 at USF baseball stadium.
"That might have been Derrick Stultz's best day since he's been here at USF," head coach Lelo Prado said.
USF (27-14, 11-4) made it out of the weekend in a tie for first place in the Big East and Stultz deserved a lot of the credit after having the upper hand on the Cardinals (28-12, 10-5). The former Wharton High School standout limited Louisville to six hits a game after it locked up a series victory with 12 runs on 13 hits.
"The team needed him badly, and he stepped up and did his job," said Prado of Stultz, who improved to 6-1 a season after sitting out with a shoulder injury.
Stultz got a big lift in the sixth when the USF bats came alive and gave him a 4-0 lead to feel good about. Kyle Teaf worked a one-out walk, Alex Mendez sent him to third with a single and Luis Llerena gave the Bulls a lead with a single to left field.
Louisville made its third pitching change and didn't have much luck with Chad Green, who walked Daniel Rockhold and walked Todd Brazeal with the bases loaded - all with two outs. Green's day was done one batter later when he hung a curveball that Jimmy Falla roped into left field for a two-run single.
"We had great at-bats," Prado said. "It was the first time in that game that we really zoned in on the strike zone."
The Cardinals got their run off Stultz in the top of the seventh and USF responded in the bottom half with an RBI single by Mendez, who went 2-for-3 from the leadoff spot. Teaf, who went 2-for-2, started the inning with a double down the line in left field.
Stultz put one on in the eighth, but pitched into two groundouts and added one of his two strikeouts on the day before he exited. Nick Gonzalez took the ball in the ninth and posted three strikeouts, the last one with a powerful fist pump, to make sure the Bulls got back on track at home.
"I'm proud of the way the guys bounced back," Prado said.
USF steps out of Big East play for a game and stays in-state to face No. 4/5 Florida 7 p.m. Tuesday in Gainesville.
"It's going to be a dogfight up there and I'm excited to see how we respond to playing the Gators," Prado said.