Bulls fight, but come up short at home
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 01:02
The Bulls softball team battled hard against the Florida Gators Wednesday night, but came up short of victory in front of a single-game record crowd of 1,611 at the USF softball stadium.
The 3-1 loss to the No. 4 Gators was the sixth defeat in a row for the Bulls, but left coach Ken Eriksen more relieved than he’s been in a couple weeks.
“It was the best game we’ve played enthusiastic-wise, defensive-wise (and) offensive-wise so far this season,” he said. “We need to start playing every game like it’s in front of a sold out crowd.”
USF junior pitcher Sara Nevins pitched like the Nevins of last season.
The junior had allowed only one hit until the sixth inning, when Gator freshman standout Kelsey Stewart hit a double down the third base line to spark the Gator offense. Freshman Kirsti Merritt hit a single to score Stewart.
Sophomore slugger Lauren Haeger then blasted a home run to centerfield to make it 3-1 in favor of the Gators.
The lone run the Bulls scored was off the bat of senior third baseman Kenshyra Jackson, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning.
The Bulls missed several opportunities to score.
Freshman Morgan Litchfield was stranded on base after hitting a double off the right field wall in the second inning, just a few feet short of a home run.
Junior Stephanie Medina hit a hard line drive to Gator left fielder Briana Little, but Little made a great catch to save a run as the Bulls had two runners on base.
Freshman Monica Santos pinch-hit in the sixth inning, and the 4-foot 10 second baseman nearly came up big for the Bulls on a line drive to second base.
“Mo (Monica) hit a ball that would’ve scored two runs if it was a couple feet to the left,” Eriksen said.
Though it was more of the same hard luck for the Bulls with hard-hit balls going right into defender’s gloves, it was the closest Eriksen has come to claiming a moral victory this season.
“I’m so happy for the kids,” Eriksen said. “We hit so many bullets tonight. They just didn’t fall for us.”
The energy and excitement of the Bulls on Wednesday night left Eriksen excited for Thursday’s practice, and the coach was more upbeat than he has been for the last couple of weeks.
The Bulls (6-9) have one day off before starting a four-game weekend series in the Under Armour Invitational.
Another quality SEC opponent comes to the USF softball stadium on Friday at 2 p.m. The No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats are 11-3 and have already beaten three Top 25 teams in Cal, Stanford and Washington, while losing to No. 4 Arizona State and No. 1 Oklahoma.
The Wildcats have five hitters batting .333 or higher, but the Bulls’ offense could take advantage of Kentucky’s pitching. The Wildcats have a 2.73 earned run average as a team, while the Bulls have posted a 1.92 ERA coming into Wednesday.
USF will then play Illinois’ Fighting Illini at 4:15 p.m. The Illini are 5-9 and are on a four-game losing streak, but also faced a tough schedule that includes five ranked opponents. The Illini have struggled to score runs, much like USF, with only 39 on the year.
On Saturday the Bulls will head to the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater again to face off with University of Illinois-Chicago (0-10) and Toledo (1-4).