The USF softball team started its run to the 2003 College World Series in impressive fashion by defeating Florida Atlantic 7-3 Thursday.
However, the Bulls’ performance in the NCAA Regional playoffs was more of a sprint than a marathon, resulting in a crashing halt to their season.
USF would lose its next two games, both by the score of 8-0 to Oklahoma (44-12) and Oregon State (33-30), squashing any hopes of advancing toward a berth in the Softball World Series.
The Bulls, who scored six runs in the first inning against FAU, were held to only eight hits through the course of the next two games.
The offensive flurry brought on seven hits by USF, and two errors by the Panthers.
“We just were ready to play ball,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “We had good pitches to hit and took advantage of them.”
Just as the Bulls clinched the game against FAU (46-27) in the first inning, the Sooners similarly secured a victory against the Bulls by scoring three runs in the top of the third inning.
In USF’s second matchup of the Regional playoffs, an error and three hits by OU gave the Sooners all the runs they would need to defeat the Bulls 8-0.
“The only thing we did against Oklahoma was we made a couple of bad plays defensively,” Eriksen said “For them to come up with three runs right away (killed us).”
USF pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis showed signs of fatigue, conceeding five runs during the third and fourth innings.
Ellis, who threw 315 2/3 innings this season, lasted only four innings against OU and 3 2/3 against Oregon.
The Bulls relied on Ellis’ pitching throughout the season as they did in the postseason, when all the innings’ work finally caught up.
“I think it’s a tough statement to say she let us down,” Eriksen said. “She threw 200-300 innings. You have to hand it to the lady, when Corin (Tassio) quits in March, Leigh Ann steps into my office and said, ‘If you need me, I’m ready to pitch.’
“If anything, the biggest statement is we ran out of gas.”
The Bulls also ran out of gas early against Oregon State, allowing the Beavers to connect on a leadoff home run by Clare Burnum.
Along with a let down on the defensive end, USF also had offensive woes in its final game of the season when, with one out in the second inning, the Bulls had the bases loaded and could not convert any runs.
USF started the postseason chasing a berth to the College World Series, but after compiling a 54-19 record and winning only one contest in the Regional playoffs, the Bulls now seem content with waiting for the future.
“Our team, the way we play and what we’ve done across the country with a top-20 ranking, it’s amazing what we’ve done without a top-notch facility,” Eriksen said.
“With the new athletic facility and stadium, I can only apprehend what this team will do in the future.”