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Quackenbush on a roll

Posted Mar 30, 2011 by Adam Adkins

Updated Mar 30, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Lelo Prado always thought Kevin Quackenbush had the talent. Now, the University of South Florida baseball coach believes his senior closer has the confidence to go with it.

The result has been the best numbers of the right-hander’s career — and some of the best this season by a Big East Conference pitcher.

Entering tonight’s game at North Florida, Quackenbush, a Jesuit High product, boasts the third-lowest ERA (0.61) among Big East relievers with at least 10 innings pitched. He has limited opposing hitters to a .062 average, the best mark of any conference pitcher.

After working two perfect innings in USF’s weekend series against West Virginia, Quackenbush ran his scoreless streak to 12 innings. He hasn’t allowed a hit over his past seven outings (a span of eight innings) and has allowed just one base runner during that stretch.

“In this game it’s all about how much confidence you have,” Prado said. “He’s really been pitching well, and he’s going out there on a mission.”

Quackenbush, who entered the season with a 4.76 career ERA, gives a lot of the credit to new pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who has stressed the importance of getting ahead of hitters early in the count, something Quackenbush struggled to do in his first three seasons.

“In the past, I’ve walked a lot of batters and I’ve really dug myself in some deep holes and they were hard to get out of. Coach Hernandez has really preached getting that first-pitch strike over so that you’re in the driver’s seat, instead of the batter being in the driver’s seat,” Quackenbush said. “Things didn’t really click for me in the past, and I guess I can attribute that to Chuck being here this year. He’s really helped me slow things down, which has really helped my confidence and my ability on the field.”

Sitting four games under .500 (10-14) nearing the midway point of the season isn’t where Prado thought his team would be, but as the Bulls gear up for a stretch with 14 of their next 18 games away from home, he still thinks they can turn things around.

“We’ve just got to keep working and hopefully everything will click. We haven’t clicked yet,” Prado said. “You look at teams in the (men’s basketball) NCAA tournament, some teams start out terrible and now are in the Final Four. You see it in college baseball all the time. The teams that get on a roll in the middle and toward the end of the season are the teams that make damage in the tournament.

“All our goals are still ahead of us, and we’ve just got to go out and do it. We can’t talk about it. We’ve just got to do it.”

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