With the USF softball team tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning against Hofstra Saturday, coach Ken Eriksen was in a tough position.
With base runners on first and second, should he relieve starting pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis or let her gut it out?
Choosing the latter, Ellis rewarded Eriksen’s good faith with two clutch strikeouts, and the Bulls scored four runs in the top of the ninth to pull out the 6-2 extra-innings victory.
“Anytime you get a strikeout with runners in scoring position that’s getting the job done for us,” Eriksen said.
USF (16-4) rolled to its 10th straight victory this weekend, defeating Radford, Seton Hall, Indiana, Hofstra and Maryland in the USF Best Western Tournament. The Bulls have been almost unbeatable at home, going 13-1 with the lone setback coming at the hands of No. 2 Arizona.
After pounding Hofstra 10-2 earlier in the year, the Bulls struggled against Pride starting pitcher Sara DeAngelis. Taking advantage of a fierce wind, DeAngelis mixed in a repertoire of off-speed pitches and fastballs, keeping the Bulls’ offense at bay most of the game.
“DeAngelis was throwing a lot of change-ups, but they weren’t for strikes and what we finally did was lay off the change-up so she had to bring it up,” Eriksen said.
Tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth inning, Christie Chapman drove in the go-ahead run, and Carmela Liwag cleared the bases with a three-run triple. Knocking DeAngelis out of the game, the Bulls held on for the 6-2 victory.
Starting pitcher Ellis threw nine innings for her second consecutive extra-innings victory. Ellis struck out 12, making it 28 Ks in two games.
“Leigh Ann came up with 145 pitches (against Seton Hall) and won both extra-inning ball games for us,” Eriksen said. “She’s a horse and you can ride those big horses sometimes.
After defeating Radford 6-1 earlier Friday, the Bulls had a tougher match against Seton Hall. Scoreless through five, USF finally broke through in the sixth inning. With one out, Chapman singled to get on base.
After Chapman moved to second on a passed ball, Krista Holle stepped up and stroked a triple to knot it up at one. The Bulls went scoreless through another three innings before scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning.
With one out, Holly Groves walked and advanced to third after runner Carmela Liwag was caught in a run down between third and home. Chapman came through with a two-out single to drive in Groves.
Starting pitcher Ellis went all 10 innings for her seventh win, walking none and striking out 16, one short of the USF record.
Behind 14 hits, the Bulls went on to trounce Indiana 6-2 in the first game Saturday. The Bulls sparked things early, scoring two in the bottom of the first, one run in the second and two more in the third, to make it 5-0. After the Hoosiers added two runs in the fourth, the Bulls put them away with another run in the sixth.