TAMPA - Andrew Barbosa saved his best start of the season for the perfect time.
USF's ace left-hander gave up just two hits in a complete game shutout to help the Bulls pick up a valuable 3-0 victory over first-place St. John's on Friday night in New York. USF (30-16, 13-6) is now a game behind the Red Storm in the Big East standings with two more to go in the series.
"That's the best he's ever pitched here and I'm proud of him," said head coach Lelo Prado. "They are a great club and he pretty much did everything he had to do to get the win today."
Barbosa struck out nine batters, didn't give up a hit after the fifth inning and retired nine straight on the way to improving to 6-4 this season. The senior also is graduating with a communications degree this weekend as part of USF's spring 2012 class.
"It was like I didn't get tired, which is weird for me," said Barbosa, who had Tommy John surgery last season. "It means a lot because I'm trying to get to the next level and I'm just glad I feel the way I do because it's scary when you have surgery."
USF's offense wasted little time giving Barbosa the support he needed when James Ramsay, the team's top hitter, produced an RBI sacrifice fly in the first inning after Alex Mendez doubled down the line in right field to start the game.
Ramsay was back at it in the third inning when his RBI double down the right field line drove in Mendez, who hit a one-out single. Todd Brazeal's sacrifice groundout gave USF its third run in the inning to cap off the scoring in a game that featured just six hits.
St. John's starter Matt Carasiti gave up three runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings of work. Kevin Kilpatrick didn't give up a hit in the final 2 1/3 innings.
Ramsay wound up going 1-for-3 with two RBIs while Mendez was the lone Bull with multiple hits after putting together a 2-for-3 night with two runs scored.
"Our offense did enough to get some runs early and I'm just happy for the club," Prado said.
USF will look to move into a tie for first place in the Big East when it faces St. John's in the second game of the series with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. Joey Lovecchio will get the start for the Bulls.
"We need him to have a big game tomorrow," Prado said.