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USF baseball faces elimination game

Posted May 24, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated May 24, 2012 at 12:02 PM

CLEARWATER—Before the Big East Conference baseball tournament began, University of South Florida coach Lelo Prado talked about the importance of starting strong.

“You want to win the first game, then you want to win the second game,’’ Prado said. “You fall into that losers’ bracket and you’ve got to fight like crazy to get out of there.’‘

The Bulls are there now.

Following Wednesday night’s 7-2 loss against Connecticut, a team they swept during the regular season, the Bulls (34-21) meet the Pittsburgh Panthers (28-27) in an elimination game this afternoon at 5 at Bright House Field.

USF took two of the three regular-season meetings at Pittsburgh, dropping the opener 2-1, then winning 6-5 and 9-8 on April 13-15.

The Bulls will start senior right-hander Derrick Stultz (8-1), a second-team All-Big East selection. Stultz must pick up the team after left-hander Andrew Barbosa, a first-team All-Big East selection, was beaten by UConn in the tournament opener.

Stultz missed two full seasons due to elbow and shoulder injuries. Prado said Stultz has made a complete turnaround physically, mentally and academically.

“There were a lot of people who told me not to take a chance on Derrick from the get-go,’’ Prado said. “There were a lot of people who thought I should just get rid of him. But this season, he has been a changed man. He had to clean a lot of things up, not just physically. He got his academics done. He made a commitment to push himself. That’s what it comes down to for all of us—that solid commitment to excellence—or else you’re just going to coast through life.

“Derrick has had a great season and we need that kind of effort to continue.’‘

Prado said the Bulls must get solid pitching, but also cash in on its opportunities. Against UConn, the Bulls left 14 men on base.

If USF defeats Pittsburgh, it plays Friday night at 6 against the loser of tonight’s game between No. 1-seeded Louisville and UConn.

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