The USF softball team went into the Worth Wildcat Invitational in Arizona this weekend hoping to find out where it stood amongst some of the nation’s premier teams, including a few that will likely be vying for a national championship in this year’s College World Series.
And though the No. 22 Bulls (16-5) stumbled in the first day and finished with a 1-3 record in the tournament, a victory against No. 7 Stanford followed by a close loss to No. 2 Arizona should give the Bulls a good indication of how they stack up with elite competition.
USF’s lone victory came against the Cardinal, and with the way the game ended up — an 8-0 game-shortened win — it might have been because the Bulls were still reeling after a pair of losses Friday.
Senior Holly Groves got the Bulls started with a three-run home run in the first, which turned out to be more than enough support for senior Leigh Ann Ellis on the mound.
Ellis (11-3) pitched a complete-game two-hit shutout, helping the Bulls earn their first victory against Stanford since March 31, 1985.
Sophomore Christi Chapman ended the game in the fifth with a two-run home run to dead center, a blast that was estimated at 250 feet.
The win followed the first time the Bulls had dropped consecutive games all season. USF lost to Oklahoma State, 3-2, and then to Boston University, 4-3, in the first day of the tournament, snapping the team’s seven-game winning streak.And to make matters worse, it was the Bulls’ defense that mostly contributed to the pair of losses.
USF committed five errors combined in the two games, leading to five unearned runs.
Ellis allowed just one earned run on four hits and struck out six in the loss to OSU.
Then against BU, freshman pitcher Danielle Urbanik’s throwing error led to three unearned runs in the third, putting USF in a deep hole. A run scored in the sixth proved to be the game-winner before USF’s Tiffany Stewart hit a three-run home run in the seventh.
Much like last season, USF and Arizona battled in a close game, only to see the Wildcats escape with the win.
Ellis pitched a complete game, allowing five hits and two earned runs with five strikeouts.
The Wildcats took the early lead when pitcher Wendy Allen, who allowed five hits and struck out six, helped herself with a sacrifice fly in the third. Arizona added another run in the fourth on Candace Abrams’ RBI single.
USF cut its deficit in half when Groves hit a solo home run, her team-leading fifth of the season, in the sixth, but the Bulls would get no closer in a 2-1 loss.
USF returns to action Thursday when the Bulls face Mississippi and Mercer in the Speedline Tournament in Clearwater. The tournament also holds the Bulls’ game against the U.S. National Team, which will feature USF coach Ken Eriksen coaching against his own team.