USF suffers tough weekend on the road
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 00:02
The USF softball team lost each of its five games over the weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater.
With losses to Southern Illinois (5-4), Louisiana-Lafayette (3-0), James Madison (1-0), UC-Davis (1-0) and Illinois State (7-0), the Bulls have now lost seven of their last eight games and dropped to a record of 6-8 this season.
Last year, the Bulls hadn’t lost their eighth game until April 18.
But everything that could go wrong in Clearwater this weekend, did go wrong.
Bad defense started off on Friday against Southern Illinois, as an error at home plate cost the Bulls two runs in the fifth inning.
The first run scored on a slide at home and the second run scored inexplicably when freshman catcher Morgan Litchfield and junior pitcher Sara Nevins each assumed the play was over and turned their backs to home plate.
The play was a snapshot of the way the game went and how the season has gone so far.
The Bulls lost 5-4 and a two-run rally in the seventh inning was too little to save them.
USF coach Ken Eriksen said he feels responsible for the team not preparing well enough for Southern Illinois this week, as he was on the road scouting.
“The game was a debacle,” Eriksen said. “It was probably the most embarrassing game I’ve ever coached in my life. I wasn’t even happy with the way we warmed up before the game.”
USF bats went bitter cold in the next four games of the series and scored no runs on 11 hits.
The last time the Bulls were shutout in four consecutive games was in the 2002 season.
Eriksen said he thinks his team isn’t battling.
“We’re not fighting at all,” he said. “We’re not focused. We’re looking around for someone else to step up and make a play. We have to go out and get it. People aren’t going to be playing if this continues.”
Eriksen made noticeable changes to the batting order in every game of the series, but the Bulls’ team batting average still dropped to .230 on the season.
Out of the six players with over 30 at-bats, only sophomore D’anna Devine and junior Kourtney Salvarola are still batting over .300.
But even pitching, the foundation and trademark of the Bulls’ 2012 College World Series team, seemed to crack.
After posting a .25 earned run average in the first two weeks of the season and winning Big East Pitcher of the Week last week, senior Lindsey Richardson lost both games she started in Clearwater and her record dropped to 3-3. She was 9-2 last season.
Sophomore Sam Greiner, who was 10-4 as a freshman last season, now has a 4.80 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. She only has three strikeouts, but has walked 13 hitters and given up 14 hits.
“Our pitchers are getting ahead of batters maybe 25 percent of the time,” Eriksen said. “Even crappy hitters will take advantage of that.”
Without the flawless pitching the Bulls had last season, they have little room to make mistakes on defense.
Defensive blunders seem to be twice as deadly because of the Bulls’ offensive drought.
On Wednesday the Bulls will welcome the 5th-ranked Florida Gators (16-1) to the USF softball stadium at 6 p.m. USF went 2-1 against the Gators last season, including a 1-0 win in the NCAA Regional Championship in Gainesville.