The USF softball team was snake-bitten when it played close to its best softball of the season, but still could not come up with a victory.
In a doubleheader against Penn State, the Bulls dropped both of their games 3-1.
“(Tuesday) was our best two games in a row since the games we played in Gainesville, when we beat North Carolina and Florida back-to-back,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “If we can eliminate giving them extra situations with the walks and the errors, that’s the key to winning right now.”
The Bulls (7-16-1) only committed one error against the Nittany Lions (5-9), but it was a costly one when the gloves of left-fielder Holly Groves and center-fielder Stephanie Roberts collided and allowed two runs to score in the fifth inning to give PSU the 3-1 lead.
“(It was) a communication error,” Groves said. “There was people yelling, infielders yelling and outfielders yelling. That was just bad. I didn’t hear (Stephanie). She didn’t hear me. It was just bad.”
The game was a 1-1 tie up to that point, as the Bulls got off to an early start when in the first inning Shelly Riker scored on an error by the Nittany Lions when there was a bad throw to first base.
“Infield errors will hurt you, but outfield errors will kill you,” Eriksen said.
The amount of errors committed by the Bulls’ wasn’t the only thing that saw improvement – so were the walks. Bulls pitchers combined for only six walks.
Katie Dugger pitched six innings the first game, walking three, and in the second game, Corin Tassio and Niki Trowell pitched a combined seven innings for three walks.
Dugger (0-4) allowed five hits with three strikeouts and showed some improvement, getting ahead of batters and throwing 16 first-pitch strikes to 11 first-pitch balls.
Tassio (1-4) allowed three runs while throwing five strikeouts to bring her total to 26.
“They’re learning,” Eriksen said. “You hate to see they’re learning in game 23 and 24, but it’s starting to pay off a little bit, and they’re starting to feel good about themselves. First you have to play, then you have to get comfortable and then you get good. We are just beginning to feel comfortable now.”
In the latter of the Bulls’ games, the Nittany Lions jumped out to an early lead when Jennifer Tripken hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning.
The Bulls came close to sending the game into extra innings when Groves, who has a team leading .343 average, hit a single to drive in Courtney Lewellen for USF’s only run. Then Trowell hit a ball that came about a foot short of going over the left-field wall and sending the game into extra innings.
“I turned to our dugout at the start of the inning and said (PSU pitcher) Beseres was dead right now. She’s just lobbing them up there. She’s out of gas. Go whack,” Eriksen said. “We ran out of time in the second game.”
A former USF standout was partially supporting the game when Monica Triner, who leads the Bulls all-time in nine offensive categories, was half-watching the game and half-scouting the Bulls as an assistant coach for Virginia Tech. The Hokies will compete against the Bulls in the Speedline Invitational Friday.She hasn’t been able to see her former team play much this season but is optimistic about their chances.
“From what I hear they have been struggling. They have to work out the kinks,” Triner said. “Ken is a great coach. He’ll get them on the right track. Their coaching staff is very (renowned). They’ll come out of it; they have a good team.”
- Bryan Fazio covers softball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org