After going 2-2 in the first two days of the 2014 USF Tournament, the Bulls handed Illinois its second loss of the season on Sunday afternoon with a walk-off single by sophomore infielder Monica Santos.
With sophomore catcher Lee Ann Spivey at third base, following an Illinois throwing error and sacrifice bunt by junior third baseman Nicollette Levine, Santos hit a line drive through the right side of the infield to drive Spivey home.
“Thank goodness (Santos) made an adjustment and finally went with the pitch middle-away,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “We got lucky the right fielder bobbled it, I’m not sure (she would have been safe at first), because you time ‘Mo Mo’ with a calendar when she runs.”
Though USF appeared to do everything necessary in the final play, Eriksen said the execution wasn’t as good as it needed to be.
“We could be making it easier on ourselves,” Eriksen said. “I’m not exactly thrilled to death with what’s going on, but at the same time we could be 3-5 instead of 4-4 after that ballgame. We just have to improve if we’re going to be a championship-level team at the end of the year.”
After a Friday on which Eriksen said his team’s leadership,
discipline and attitude was not up to standard while going 1-1 on the day, the Bulls rebounded with a 1-1 record on Saturday with improved attitude that continued into Sunday, he said.
The Bulls started off Saturday with a 5-1 win over Pittsburgh that featured home runs from senior shortstop Kourtney Salvarola and Spivey, while senior pitcher Sara Nevins earned the win in 5 2/3 innings.
USF followed with a 3-2 loss to No. 2 Tennessee, where the Bulls left 11 runners on base compared to the Volunteers’ four.
The game was 3-2 from the third inning on, and the Bulls stranded runners in almost every inning, but Eriksen was pleased with the Bulls’ response after a team meeting the night before.
“I thought our attitude today was tremendous,” Eriksen said. “I thought our effort was fantastic. I can be around a team like that every day, whether we win or lose. That was fun to be around watching both games.”
Sophomore pitcher Erica Nunn started for USF, allowing her first runs of the season, but pitched a complete game.
Nunn allowed six hits and two earned runs with seven strikeouts and no walks, giving her the hard-luck loss for the second straight day.
“I think we found out a lot today about her character,” Eriksen said. “The ability we already knew about. But she mixed it up with the big girls today.”
Eriksen said he doesn’t have to give her any words of encouragement after great pitching in two losses.
“She’s so professional and respectful,” he said. “She’s a teamer. I don’t have to tell her anything. She gets that we’re playing for a ring, not All-American status.”
USF will take on five teams in Clearwater next weekend at the Eddie C. Moore Complex.