USF found some rhythm in their early games this weekend, but continues to search for consistency against tough competition.
The Bulls (11-10) went 3-2 at the USF Under Armour Invitational, adding a solid victory over Arkansas to their NCAA Tournament resume.
In Friday’s big win, Bulls teamwork came together to hold off Arkansas in a 2-0 decision. Sophomore Lindsey Richardson pitched six innings, fighting out of multiple jams by leaving eight Arkansas players on base. Erin Bly hit a single in the fourth inning, scoring the only two runs of the game. Freshman Sara Nevins closed out the game to earn her fourth save.
“It’s a good team effort all around,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “We had consistent pitching and pretty good defense. (Arkansas) was a crucial game for us. We were coming off of two wins hoping to make it a third against a good team.”
In both losses this weekend the Bulls could not find the clutch hits with runners in scoring position.
“That’s what happens against good teams, you struggle to get good hits when you need them,” Eriksen said. “You’ve got to come up with the clutch hit at the clutch time.”
After USF won back-to-back games on Friday the win streak ended in Clearwater, losing 11-4 to Loyola Marymount. The Bulls little mistakes kept innings alive for LMU to pile on runs, including a five-run inning at the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach. USF could not find the hits when needed – leaving five runners stranded in scoring positions.
“We’ve got to win the first inning and that’s the philosophy we go with,” Eriksen said. “Our defense was on their heels a lot. You can’t play passive, you have to show some fire out there and we didn’t do that.”
No. 5 Michigan handed the Bulls its second loss Sunday, 7-2. The Bulls failed to score runs early leaving a runner on third base in the first two innings.
Nevins kept the game scoreless, striking out 13 Wolverines in 5.1 innings pitched, until Michigan had a two-out rally in the fifth to score three. After Michigan scored four more in the sixth, USF got on the scoreboard with Stephanie Medina’s two-run home run.
“We’re playing hard right now,” Eriksen said. “Sara Nevins proved today that she can throw against anyone in the country.”
USF started the tournament with balanced bats getting a total of 13 hits in the victory against Ball State. Every Bull in the starting lineup got at least one hit in the 8-2 win. Nevins received the complete game win, giving up only four hits and two walks with 10 total strikeouts.
The Bulls final win on the weekend was a 9-1 victory over East Tennessee State on Saturday. The Bulls led 6-1 when Kourtney Salvarola hit a three-run home run to center field to end the game in a run-rule victory.
The Bulls host a doubleheader against Maine on Tuesday at the new on-campus stadium at 3 p.m.