It was a heavyweight match-up at the USF Softball Complex Wednesday night.
The Bulls (29-20, 7-5 C-USA) traded blows with the Florida Gators (32-11, 11-4 SEC), but in the end USF outscored the No. 15 team in the nation, beating them 5-2.
The Bulls got the first punch in with a three-run first inning off a Krista Holle line drive home run over the left field wall. USF got two more runners on base for freshman Carly Griffin who hit a single to left field.
The next batter, Bree Spence — the starting pitcher — hit a single to right field to score another run.
The Gators struck back in the top of the second when Savana Kelly hit a ground ball to shortstop Christie Chapman that enabled a runner on third to come home.
With the score 3-1 in the bottom of the third, the Bulls got a scare when a Stacey Stevens’ pitch hit Spence on her right hand. Spence took a little time to shake off the hit but came back out in the fourth inning.
“She’s a tough kid; she will bounce back,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “She’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but she’ll be ready to go for the weekend.”
Spence got through the fourth inning without allowing a run, but her hand was admittedly sore for the rest of the game.
“It still hurts a little bit,” Spence said. “They are going to take a look at it to see if it’s all right. She hit me pretty hard.”
With their star pitcher ailing the Bulls came up with some more offense.
With Holle on first base, Carmela Liwag hit an opposite-field blast to left center to add two more runs to the Bulls’ lead.
Down 5-1, UF would not go down without a fight.
With Spence still in the Gators’ Michelle Diaz hit a triple to right field and Shelley Stevens hit a single that brought Diaz home.
With the score 5-2 in the top of the seventh, the Bulls looked in control of the game.
Spence still on, the Gators hit three straight base hits off the ailing right hander to load the bases. Eriksen took out Spence in favor of sophomore lefthander Kasey Cash who became clutch to strike out the next batter — the Gators’ Shelley Stevens. Eriksen then made the move to the right-handed Nicole Christensen to face the Gators’ Lauren Rousell. Rousell hit a slow grounder to Christensen who made the force out at home, then Bulls’ catcher Laura Wolf made a quick decision to throw a slow running Rousell out at first to end the game.
The heads-up play by Wolf was the final blow to the Gators and gave the Bulls their first win over a ranked opponent this season.
The toughness of his relief pitchers had Eriksen beaming at the end of the game.
“I can’t say enough about what Cash and Christensen did,” Eriksen said. “Coming out of the bullpen like that with nobody out and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh. If the Yankees had our bullpen they would be undefeated right now.”