When the Bulls got their 40th win of the season during the Conference USA tournament, coach Ken Eriksen thought it would be enough to propel his team into the NCAA Regionals.
He was right. USF will face UCF at Gainesville on Friday.
“We’re going to beat them,” said Eriksen of the Knights, who lost to USF earlier this season. “It’s that simple. They know what we have; we know what they have. There’s not a lot of secrets this point in the season.”
Making the Regionals is a sweet end to a weekend that was rather bitter for USF (40-26), who was eliminated after four games at the C-USA tournament.
The Bulls’ skills — not to mention their nerves — were tested in the tournament, as all four games were decided by one run and three-of-four were decided on the last pitch.
“Sometimes athletics is decided on a bad bounce, a bad pitch, a good swing,” Eriksen said. “This weekend we just happened to end up 2-2, not 4-0. We could have easily been 4-0.”
After barely sliding past Houston on the last play in their first game, the Bulls lost a heartbreaker to No. 1-seed Houston on Thursday.
With a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh, No. 4-seed USF found itself one strike away from victory.
Unfortunately for USF, C-USA’s Co-Player of the Year, Courtney Moore, was at bat. With the count 2-2, Moore smacked a two-run home run over the rightfield fence, giving the Cardinals the shocking victory and erasing the Bulls’ bid for the upset.
“We’ve won games 10-0 this year, we’ve lost games 10-0 this year. We’ve won in the seventh inning, we’ve lost in the seventh inning.” Eriksen said after the game. “You have to play every single pitch, every single out. You can’t give them opportunities like that.”
But if the Bulls thought that loss was tough, they just had to wait until Friday.
In a rematch against Houston, the Bulls took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh, only to have it blown after a wild pitch and a throwing error.
With runners on second and third with two outs, the Bulls attempted to intentionally walk Kristen Glowacz, C-USA’s other Co-Player of the Year. But the attempt went through the legs of USF’s catcher, who tried to throw out a runner at second. The throw then went over the head of the Bulls’ second baseman and the winning run scored from second.
The loss eliminated the Bulls.
“We had one hiccup in each loss,” said Eriksen. “And we paid for it.”
Bree Spence, a freshman pitcher, will start against UCF on Friday. During the tournament, Spence threw 29.2 innings, allowing 17 hits and four earned runs while striking out 14.
“She’s peaking right when she needs to peak,” Eriksen said. “You bet your ass she’s pitching.”