There was a youth movement at the USF Softball Complex on Wednesday night.
The freshmen of the softball team made plays all over the field as the Bulls (34-18, 4-0 Big East) posted back-to-back shutouts in their doubleheader sweep over Stetson (29-9, 4-0 A-Sun).
“We played some pretty good softball tonight, there’s no question about it,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “I felt like Jessica Landau came out and fit in the lineup real well in the first game and continued to hit in clutch situations for us in the second game.
“If you’re going to get a freshman to step up like that, and with Britta Giddens doing her job and Ashley Bullion doing her job, and Cristi Ecks doing her job – I mean, holy mackerel.”
During the first game, Landau gave USF some breathing room when she nailed a three-run shot over the left field fence. The third baseman’s second home run of the season added to USF’s 2-0 lead as the Bulls held on to win 5-0.
Stetson pitcher Erica Demers (16-2), last week’s Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Week, was pulled after allowing six hits and five runs in 1 1/3 innings. USF starter Bree Spence (15-6) earned the win, pitching a shutout and allowing only five hits in the contest.
In the second game, the Bulls made it hard to believe Stetson had been riding an eight-game winning streak prior to coming to Tampa.
USF racked up nine runs in five innings against the Hatters while starter Ecks (14-9) led the Bulls to their second consecutive shutout. The freshman pitched all five innings and struck out 11 batters in the 9-0 mercy-rule victory.
“Well I heard a lot about the games from last year; how we got swept by (Stetson),” Ecks said. “So it was really kind of like a payback thing. Not so much for me, but for the team in general. We all just came out, and it was a big team effort; we all just wanted to win.”
Freshmen made plays for the Bulls on offense during the second game as well.
Landau and Bullion both went 2-for-2 at the plate. Landau produced three RBI, while Bullion had three runs. Giddens had a solid performance as well, going 2-for-3 at the plate with one RBI.
Eriksen was pleased with his younger players, but wasn’t very surprised. This far into the season, the coach expects a high level of play from all his players.
“Well, we don’t recruit players to sit the bench,” Eriksen said. “Fifty-three games into the season, I don’t think you can be considered a freshman anymore. You’ve got 53 collegiate games under your belt, and that’s the majority of the season, so at this point, yeah, they should be doing what they’re doing, and I’m pretty happy about it.”