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USF at Notre Dame | May 9 | 1:05 p.m. | Notre Dame, Ind.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of South Florida baseball team dropped the first game of a three game set against Notre Dame on Friday by a score of 8-5.
The Bulls dropped to 30-18 on the season and 17-5 in BIG EAST play. USF opened up conference play by winning six of the first seven series against BIG EAST teams including a trio of sweeps.
The Bulls still sit atop the BIG EAST standings and will have two more games at Notre Dame before taking on second place Louisville in the final weekend of the regular season.
Fighting Irish starter Cole Johnson earned the victory after pitching 6.2 innings allowing five runs on 10 hits while striking out six.
USF sophomore starter Randy Fontanez pitched five innings before leaving the game with an injury. He allowed four runs from six hits, walking two and striking out a pair in his shortest outing of the season.
Matt Quevedo relieved Fontanez and pitched 0.2 innings, allowing four runs on three hits to pick up his second loss of the season.
The Bulls got three hits from Jonathan Koscso including a pair of doubles on the night. Stephen Hunt hit a home run in the third inning, his eighth of the season, good for the best of the team.
Freshman Sam Mende also recorded a pair of hits, a double in the fourth inning and a single in the sixth.
After Notre Dame’s Ryan Connolly tagged a solo home run in the second, USF sophomore Stephen Hunt smashed his eighth home run of the season, a three-run shot to right, to give the Bulls the 3-1 lead.
Brotons started the third with an infield base hit, then sophomore Jonathan Koscso connected on his second double of the night before Hunt ripped his homer.
The Bulls added another run in the fourth when senior Trey Manz was hit by a pitch , moved to third on a double by freshman Sam Mende, then scored on a sac fly from junior Peter Brotons.
The Irish put up a three spot in the fifth as a pair of batters had triples and two others connected on base hits.
USF regained the lead in the top of the sixth as senior Brandon Smith reached on a one-out base hit to right, moved to third on a single by Mende, then scored on a base hit up the middle by Brotons.
Notre Dame collected four more in the sixth after Fontanez came out to warm up between innings, but left the game before the first batter came to the plate. Matt Quevedo came in for relief, giving up four runs from three hits and a two-run USF throwing error.
Kevin Quackenbush came in to end the inning, striking out Ryan Connolly with the bases loaded, to get USF out of the inning.
Both bullpens kept the offenses scoreless in the seventh, eighth and ninth to give Notre Dame the Game One victory. Kevin Quackenbush pitched the final 2.1 innings and allowed zero runs on just one hit, but the Bulls were not able to come back.
USF and Notre Dame face off for Game Two on Saturday at 1:05 p.m., then wrap up the three-game BIG EAST series on Sunday.
Sophomore Stephen Hunt hit a three-run homer in the third inning to give USF the 3-0 lead. It was his eighth home run of the year and 47th RBI.
USF has already surpassed last year's regular season win total of 29. USF was 29-25 in 2008 and are already are 30-18 this year with five games to play. Overall, the Bulls went 34-26 in 2007 under Lelo Prado, followed by last year's 31-27 overall mark.
This season, USF needed 47 games to mark their 30th victory. In 2008, USF wouldn't notch their 30th victory until postseason play, beating Notre Dame 9-3 in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament, which was their 55th game of the season.
USF has improved its BIG EAST regular season conference record all three seasons under Lelo Prado, and four seasons running.
2006: 12-15 8th place (0-2 at Conf Tourney)
2007: 13-14 5th place (2-2 at Conf Tourney)
2008: 14-13 6th place (2-2 at Conf Tourney)
At 17-5 this season, the Bulls have already made a three-win improvement from last year, and still have five conference games remaining.
USF has won 35 or more games just once since 1998, going 35-29 in 2002, which was their last NCAA Regional appearance.