TAMPA - The Bulls jumped on the Huskies early and didn't let up en route to finishing up their season homestand with a series sweep Sunday afternoon.
USF put together a five-run first inning and never looked back in an 8-3 victory over UConn that moved the Bulls within a game of first-place St. John's with three more Big East games to go this regular season.
"That's where USF baseball wants to be and I have all the confidence in the world that we're going in the right direction," head coach Lelo Prado said. "We have great young players and the seniors are going out in style."
Senior Todd Brazeal led USF's 10-hit attack by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Senior designated hitter Daniel Rockhold went 1-for-4 with an RBI, while James Ramsay and Anthony Diaz each had two hits in four at-bats to help the Bulls (33-18, 16-8) finish their 2012 homestand with a 22-13 record.
"It was huge just because you don't want a letdown. You've won the series and sometimes guys think it's over," Prado said. "It was big for us, we executed. It was a good win and now next week is what really counts."
USF started the game by batting all the way through the lineup in the five-run first inning that featured four errors by the Huskies. Alex Mendez led off with a single, Ramsay put runners on the corners with a one-out single and a fielding error by second baseman LJ Mazzilli on a grounder by Rockhold resulted in the 1-0 USF lead.
Brazeal followed with an RBI single and Rockhold scored the inning's third unearned run by trotting home on a passed ball. Diaz got the start in right field for the second straight day and produced an RBI single with two outs. The Bulls were up 5-0 after UConn third baseman Ryan Fuller misplayed a grounder by Zac Gilcrease.
The five-run outburst was more than enough support for USF start Matt Reed (4-3). The senior left-hander, usually a midweek starter, gave up three runs on six hits in a seven efficient innings of work.
"He did what he had to do. He got outs, pitched well and we gave him some runs," Prado said.
UConn cut its deficit to 5-2 in the top of the second and Huskies starter Brian Ward's day was done after only an inning. The right-hander gave up eight hits and seven runs, although four of them were unearned.
USF continued to have success against Carson Cross, who gave up an RBI singles to Rockhold and Brazeal with no outs in the second. Kyle Teaf's RBI sacrifice fly gave the Bulls an 8-2 lead before the frame was completed.
The Huskies added a run in the fourth inning, but Reed responded by retiring them in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh before handing the ball off to Andrew Loynaz, who gave up a hit in a scoreless eighth. Steven Leasure finished off the sweep by pitching a scoreless ninth.
USF steps outside the conference for a single game 2 p.m. Tuesday at North Florida before heading up to Morgantown for a crucial three-game set against West Virginia that begins 7:05 p.m. Thursday.