By KY-SHON HEPBURN
Special to GoUSFBulls.com
TAMPA – USF (31-15, 15-2) needed extra innings on Saturday to extend its winning streak to five games.
Jimmy Falla’s RBI-single followed by an error fueled a three-run 10th inning to lift the No. 20 Bulls to a 4-3 victory over Notre Dame. The first-place Bulls have won 11 consecutive Big East games.
“Our guys came out in the 10th and got three runs and we held on,” said head coach Lelo Prado. “I am happy for our guys, it is another great win.”
Falla went 4-for-5 with one RBI.
Starter Nick Gonzalez had a solid outing pitching seven shutout innings. The left-hander struck out five batters and allowed no runs on eight hits and one walk. Lawrence Pardo, Chad Taylor (1-0) and Jordan Strittmatter pitched a combined three innings allowing three runs on five hits.
“We needed innings out of him (Gonzalez) and he gave it to us,” Prado said. “The things that have been successful for us is the bullpen so we did a good job there.”
James Ramsay drove in the first run for the Bulls with a two-out, RBI single to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead in the third inning. The Fighting Irish tied the game at 1 in the ninth on a passed ball with two outs.
“We had a passed ball and that can’t happen,” said Prado. “We did enough to win.”
Ramsay went 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI.
Nik Alfonso led off the 10th inning with a single and moved to second on a bunt by Kyle Teaf. Alex Mendez reached base when he was hit by a pitch and Ramsay walked to load the bases. Falla hit a RBI-single up the middle and Norton followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Bulls a 4-1 lead.
The Fighting Irish threatened in the home half of the tenth loading the bases with two outs. Notre Dame scored two runs on three hits before Strittmatter got Trey Mancini to ground out back to him for a 1-3 putout. Strittmatter earned his first save of the season.
The series finale against Notre Dame starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Frank Eck Stadium.
“We have to finish the job tomorrow,” said Prado.