The wind was howling Tuesday.
Routine pop outs became impossible to judge and potential home runs were held captive inside the USF Softball Complex. But despite competing with both the wind and its opponent, the softball team (23-16) managed to sweep its double header against the University of Illinois-Chicago (9-19) thanks to strong pitching and smart batting.
“The first game we were a little shaken,” freshman Britta Giddens said. “I think the wind kind of got us a little bit.”
Whether it was the wind or the opposition, the Bulls couldn’t seem to produce any offense early in the first game. By the end of the third inning, USF had tallied just two hits and were relying on the pitching of freshman Christi Ecks (10-8) to keep the score tied at zero.
“Well, you’ve got to credit their pitcher, (freshman Sarah) Clynes. She threw a pretty darn good ballgame and had us fooled and was popping us up a little bit,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “I thought we made some really nice adjustments in that first game of getting the ball on the ground, and if you get the ball on the ground good things can happen.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning, senior Tiffany Stewart showed her teammates the advantage of keeping the ball down when she lined a speeding ground ball toward the shortstop. The ball hit the dirt in front of the shortstop and took a wild hop over her head, giving Stewart a single as well as an RBI.
With the Bulls still holding a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, the Flames’ rally attempt was thwarted when junior Kasey Cash came in to relieve Ecks and forced two pop outs to end the game, stranding the go-ahead run at first and the tying run at second.
In the second game, the Bulls proved they had discovered the secret to dealing with both the wind and their opponents as they cruised to a 9-1 mercy-rule victory to secure the sweep.
“I think everybody finally figured out to get the ball on the ground instead of in the air,” Giddens said.
The freshman second baseman went 2-for-2 at the plate and scored three of the Bulls’ nine runs in the second game, while sophomore pitcher Bree Spence (8-5) allowed only one hit and one run in the victory.
“With the wind here tonight up there at probably about 20 or 25 knots, home runs are not going out of our park,” Eriksen said. “So I thought we did the job we had to do about putting the ball on the ground, and we played pretty good defense. You want to do those types of things and get good pitching (and get) all three cylinders working (together), and I think we had that tonight for the first time in a long time.”