USF hitters heat up, going 3-1 over weekend
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 00:03
The Bulls bounced back from a gut-wrenching loss to Kentucky and mounted a three-game winning streak in the first weekend of the USF Under Armour Invitational, also ending a seven-game losing streak in the process.
Action started, Friday afternoon as the Bulls faced another ranked SEC team at the USF softball stadium, the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats.
Down 1-0 in the second inning, USF tied it up when sophomore Nicolette Levine hit her first home run. The Bulls have now hit four home runs in their last five games after hitting just one in the first 14 games.
The solo shot sparked USF bats and USF reached base in the first five innings, but failed to take a lead as the game was tied 2-2 until the 9th inning.
Then the Bulls collapsed.
A perfect Kentucky bunt rolled in between junior pitcher Sara Nevins and junior first baseman Stephanie Medina as they charged toward the ball, while freshman second baseman Monica Santos ran to cover first base.
The ball continued to roll and no one was there to pick it up until the runner from second base scored to take a 3-2 lead.
Then a wild pitch advanced the runner to second base.
Nevins struck out the batter on a pitch in the dirt, but freshman catcher Lee Ann Spivey threw to third base in hopes of stopping the runner from advancing to third.
The throw passed into the outfield and the runner scored, with the strike out victim safe at second base.
The Bulls lost 6-3 after scoring a run in the bottom half of the inning and Kentucky scored six runs on two hits.
“We had a motivating talk after the game about not trying to impress me or anyone else,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “And about having fun and being little girls again.”
The talk must have worked because the Bulls won the next three games.
In the fifth inning of Friday’s second game, one of the Bulls’ smaller players, 5-foot-3 junior Ashli Goff hit a three-run home run to right field to grab the lead against Illinois.
Goff’s second career home run was an accident, she said.
“I was just trying to slap the ball hard on the ground to advance the runner,” Goff said. “But I guess I just hit it in the right spot.”
Ashli’s twin sister, junior outfielder Courtney Goff, went two-for-three in the game and the Bulls won 3-2 with no errors.
To face Illinois, Eriksen removed every starter that had a bad game against Kentucky, only keeping the Goff sisters, Santos, Levine and sophomore D’Anna Devine in the starting lineup.
Freshman Erica Nunn started in the circle and got her second career win.
“She was in it bad in the second or third inning with the bases loaded and responded well,” Eriksen said. “That’s why we recruited her. She’s a Top 20 player (in 2012 recruiting class).”
The offensive spark provided by Levine and Ashli Goff carried into Saturday’s double-header at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater.
USF hadn’t scored more than five runs since the first game of the season, when they scored eight — until they beat the Toledo Rockets 8-2.
The Bulls jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning when Levine hit an RBI single and Medina followed with a two-RBI single to break out of her offensive slump.
Medina wasn’t done.
With the score 6-2 in the sixth inning, Medina blasted a two-run home run to center field to seal the 8-2 victory for the Bulls. She went three for four in the game with four RBI and two runs scored.
The Bulls bats went a bit cold again in the second game of the day against Illinois-Chicago, managing only four hits, but the combined pitching effort of Nevins and senior Lindsey Richardson lead the Bulls to a 2-1 victory.
“Last year was great, but we can’t try to be 50-14 in the first, tenth or whatever game of the year,” Eriksen said. “We got to go out and play ball realizing every day is hard work, and get that little bit of immaturity out of the way.”
The Bulls will play ball again and try to move past .500 in a Wednesday night double-header at the USF softball stadium against Central Michigan, starting at 6 p.m.