The No. 22 USF softball team will have to wait until next year.
Riding a five-game losing streak dating back to 2002 against rival No. 24 Florida, the Bulls had a chance to break that skid Tuesday night.
However, the Bulls came up on the short end, losing 3-1 and 9-7 in front of a crowd of 236.
The loss snapped a 28-game home winning streak for the Bulls.
Despite the two defeats, USF coach Ken Eriksen was proud of the way his team fought back, especially coming back from a 9-2 deficit in the second game.
“It just wasn’t our day today,” Eriksen said. “Leigh Ann threw great in the first game, and we didn’t make some plays which cost us some runs, obviously. In the second game, we had our backs to the wall a little bit, and the girls did an unbelievable job of coming back and scoring seven runs on a very good team.
“There are not many teams that could score seven runs against Florida.”
In the first game, it was a pitchers’ duel from the start. University of Arizona transfer Jenny Gladding blanked the Bulls through five innings. Not to be outdone, Bulls’ ace Leigh Ann Ellis struck out eight through five scoreless innings. In the top of the sixth, UF cracked the scoreboard first, pushing across two runs on three hits.
The Gators scored another run in the seventh, while the Bulls could only muster one run the rest of the way.
Even though there was only one error in the field, Eriksen felt the infield play was terrible.
“I thought it was brutal as far as our infield play was concerned,” Eriksen said. “We talked about it yesterday about having to make the plays, catch and throw and be aggressive. In the first game, we didn’t do that and that’s how they scored three runs.”
Despite striking out 11 batters and throwing 110 pitches, Ellis wanted to start Game 2.
“She wanted the ball before the game,” Eriksen said. “She asked me for the ball, and I said, ‘No, there’s no way.’ She doesn’t need to be burning out right now in the middle of the week. It’s a nice regional game to win against Florida, but it’s not a Conference USA team.”
In the second game, USF dug itself into a hole from the start. Lead-off hitter Jackie Marchetta singled off Bulls’ starter Nicole Christensen to open the game. After Marchetta stole second, Lindsey Cameron hit a two-run home run over the right-center wall as part of a three-run Gators’ first.
The Bulls responded immediately in the bottom of the first. After Shelly Riker and Courtney Lewellen reached base, Holly Groves crushed a double off the right-field wall to drive in two runs.
From there, it fell apart for the Bulls.
The Gators scored two runs in the third and four in the fourth off nine hits and two home runs against two different USF pitchers.
“Florida was swinging the bat well, and that’s all there was to it,” Eriksen said. “We weren’t making good pitches. Not to take anything away from Nicole, Gail (Callinan) or (Rachel) Rosenbaum, they battled as hard as they could, but it just wasn’t their day at all.”
USF made things interesting by scoring four runs in the fourth and tacked another one in the fifth, but it wasn’t enough.
Despite the doubleheader sweep, Eriksen is looking forward to wiping the slate clean in a crucial three-game conference series against St. Louis this weekend.
“We’ve got a big, important series coming up this weekend,” Eriksen said. “We’re 9-3 in the conference and in second place, and we’re sitting pretty good, but if you get a sweep out of it, you’re sitting even better.”