TAMPA – The University of South Florida baseball team collected 18 hits en route to a 6-3 victory over Rutgers in the opening game of BIG EAST play on Friday.
The Bulls’ hits matched the season high, which was set at UCF on March 11.
Sophomore Ryan Lockwood led the USF offense by going 4-for-5 from the plate. Sophomore Stephen Hunt and freshman Sam Mende each added three hits.
“It’s great to see Lockwood get those four hits, and having Stephen Hunt back in the lineup adds a lot of energy to the team,” said Coach Lelo Prado. “Everybody did a good job offensively.”
USF starting pitcher Randy Fontanez pitched seven strong innings allowing just one earned run on seven hits while striking out six batters to improve to 1-2 on the season. Sophomore Kevin Quackenbush picked up his third save of the season, striking out five of his eight batters.
“Our pitching staff was pretty good tonight,” said Prado. “[Kevin] Quackenbush was great there at the end and Randy [Fontanez] was good all night. If Randy stays solid, he has a great chance to win on Friday nights.”
Casey Gaynor dropped to 0-4 on the season after going four innings and allowing three earned runs on 10 hits while striking out two.
Fontanez breezed through the first inning with a perfect 1-2-3 inning. Fontanez pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the second by getting three ground ball outs. The Scarlet Knights got a two-out hit from Brandon Boykin and a walk from Michael Lang in the top of the third, but Fontanez was able to strike out Pat Biserta to end the threat.
The Bulls got two hits to begin the bottom of third from junior Peter Brotons and Lockwood. Brotons then came around to score the first run of the game on a single by Stephen Hunt.
Rutgers answered back with two runs of their own in the fourth with help from a leadoff double from Dan Betteridge and a walk from Jaren Matthews. They both came around to score on a fielding error by firstbaseman Todd Brazeal on a ball hit by Vinnie Sangemino.
The Bulls regained the lead, 4-2, in the bottom half of the fifth thanks to a pair of singles from Mende and Brazeal and two doubles from Hunt and freshman Daniel Rockhold.
Rutgers narrowed the lead to 4-3 in the top of the seventh on a leadoff home run to left field by Lang, but USF answered in the bottom of the inning. The Bulls added two insurance runs to extend the lead to 6-3 on singles by Andrew Longley, Lockwood and Koscso and a double from Mende.
Kevin Quackenbush replaced Fontanez in the top of the eighth, immediately surrendering singles to Luis Feliz and Jimenez, but got consecutive strike outs and a ground ball to first to get out of the jam.
After allowing a base hit in the top of the eighth, Quackenbush closed things out for the Bulls by striking out the side.
The leadoff batter for the Bulls reached base safely in seven of eight offensive innings for USF.
The Bulls improve to 11-7 on the season and 1-0 in BIG EAST play. The Bulls have won their BIG EAST opener in each of the four seasons that they have been in the conference.
USF will take on Rutgers Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the second game of the series, then wrap up the set at 1 p.m. Sunday.