Make that No. 29 for USF softball coach Ken Eriksen.
The USF softball team went 2-0, defeating Jacksonville and No. 17 Notre Dame during USF Wilson Tournament play this weekend.
The victory against the Fighting Irish was the second nationally ranked team the Bulls have beaten this year and the 29th in Eriksen’s seven-year tenure.
“Notre Dame’s pitcher didn’t throw it half as hard as (Jacksonville pitcher) Katie Dobson did,” Eriksen said. “So that’s a timing situation, but we had good clutch hitting when we needed to and that’s the bottom line.”
Under a sweltering sun with occasional cloud cover Saturday, Notre Dame scored first. Scoreless through the second inning, the Fighting Irish tacked on runs in the third, fourth and fifth. Down 3-0, the Bulls jumped all over Notre Dame for four runs in the bottom of the fifth.
“(Associate head coach) Stacey Nichols kind of threatened them a little bit. That meal money would be limited unless we score some runs,” Eriksen said . “I think they were inspired by the fact they may not be eating.”
In the top of the seventh, Notre Dame knotted it at four off three hits. Facing a potential extra-inning game, the Bulls got off to a quick start against Notre Dame pitcher Heather Booth in the bottom of the seventh. Shelly Riker and Kattrina Dowd both singled to get on base. After a double steal with one out, three-hole hitter Carmela Liwag provided the heroics with her second hit of the game, a line drive to center field, driving in Riker.
Corin Tassio relieved starting pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis with one out in the seventh and got the victory. Ellis allowed seven hits through 6 1/3 innings, striking our four while allowing a season-low one base on balls.
“That’s impressive when you can limit your pitching like she did,” Eriksen said. “I think she was around 90-100 pitches, which is outstanding for her. She’s buying into that philosophy that you have to work ahead. In all honesty, they had two runs that were just bad luck runs on our part, but other than that, she did throw a good ballgame.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Bulls and Jacksonville squared off for the third time this season.
USF quickly went to work against the Dolphins in the bottom of the first. Courtney Lewellen drove in the first run off a bloop single over the second baseman’s head.
After Dowd scored another run to make it 2-0,;Christie Chapman walked to load the bases. Sarah Watson then drew ball four with the bases loaded, pushing it to 3-0. The inning could’ve gotten uglier for the Dolphins, but Dobson struck out Samantha Ray with the bases loaded.
Scoring another run in the bottom of the fifth pushed the lead to 4-0, which was all that starter Tassio needed. Striking out six through 6 2/3 innings, Tassio earned her sixth victory of the year as the Bulls shut out Jacksonville for the third time this season.
“She did great today and worked ahead a lot,” Eriksen said. “She was spotting her off-speed pitches pretty nice in hitting counts. I think she did a good job, I really did.”
Sunday, however, the weather did not hold up. The Bulls were tied at two with Rhode Island in the top of the third when dark clouds came rolling in. After several hours of rain delay, both games for the day were called off.