As the USF softball team heads north today for a meeting with University of Florida, the Bulls may use the drive to reminisce about their last bout with the Gators.
On Feb. 12, the last game of the seasons opening weekend, the Bulls and Gators met at the USF Softball Stadium. At the time, the Gators were ranked No. 2 in the nation, while the Bulls were unranked and relatively unknown.
For seven innings, nothing could separate the teams, as they headed to extra innings deadlocked at 1-1. USF left-hander Sara Nevins had thrown a dominant game to that point, recovering from a first-inning run and keeping the Gators off the scoreboard.
With one out in the eighth inning she allowed a two-run homerun, including a runner who automatically started the inning on second base in accordance with international tie-breaking rules.
The Bulls lost.
Since then, the teams fortunes have been similar. The Bulls (29-5) have climbed into the national rankings on the strength of Nevins left arm. The sophomore is now 16-2 on the season and boasts a 0.55 ERA, the lowest in the nation. As a staff, the Bulls have the third-lowest ERA in the country, 0.84.
Tonights rematch against the No. 4 Gators (29-2) offers the No. 21 Bulls a chance to redeem themselves, while making a statement in the process.
We played hard against them the first time and we almost beat them, first baseman Stephanie Medina said. Its an exciting rematch, regardless of however we played them in the previous game, because its a new game. Were not going to live off of how we played against them in the past. Weve got to bring a whole new plan up to the plate and on the field and hopefully it will work.
As far as their approach at the plate, expect an aggressive lineup that will look to put the ball in play as often as possible and force the Florida defense to make plays.
Theyve got pretty good defense and theyve got pretty good pitching, coach Ken Eriksen said. Were just going to have to be real aggressive at the plate. The nice part is that they give you comfortable at-bats because their pitchers are going to be in the strike zone a lot.
The Bulls will likely be without starting second baseman Alexis Nowell, who was hit in the helmet with a pitch in the series finale against Rutgers on Sunday. Shes listed as day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms. Pitcher Lindsey Richardson is nearing a return from shoulder tightness, but may not be available against Florida, leaving Eriksen just Nevins and freshman Sam Greiner as pitching options.
Weve got two big horses out there right now in Nevins and Greiner, so we know what they can do, Eriksen said. Thats the nice thing about having depth.
First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville.