USF keeps streak alive over Spring Break
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013 01:03
The USF softball team has won 15 games in a row, two on Saturday, since March 1 and are four wins shy of tying the school record for consecutive wins, which was set during last year’s historic Women’s College World Series run.
While pitching and defense have tightened up, there’s no doubt that breaking out off an early season offensive drought has been the key to the Bulls’ success.
After scoring just 2.19 runs per game in the first 16 games, USF has more than doubled its offensive production in the 15-game winning streak, with an average of 5.27 runs per game.
Junior shortstop Kourtney Salvarola said she’s been a part of good offenses in her career as a Bull, but the team never clicked as consistently well.
“It’s not just one through five. It’s one through nine in the batting order,” she said. “And even girls coming off the bench like (sophomore) Sam Greiner, who hit a bomb in her first start, I think that shows how good we can potentially be.”
That potential shined for the first time in a 3-1 home loss to the No. 4 Florida Gators on Feb. 27, and Bulls have been a different team since that night, in front of a sold-out crowd.
“I don’t want to jinx myself. I’ll be able to speak about that more in more detail at the end of the season,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “But I do know that it was a good
springboard for us.”
USF’s power bats came alive against Florida, as they hit several bullets that went straight into Gator gloves.
The Bulls haven’t looked back since, and have now hit 22 home runs in the last 17 games, after just one in the 14 games prior to the Florida contest.
Eriksen finally found a lineup that works.
The combination of junior Stephanie Medina, senior Kenshyra Jackson, Salvarola and freshman Lee Ann Spivey batting three through six in the Bulls’ batting order is responsible for 17 of the 22 home runs and most of the runs batted in.
At the start of the season, Eriksen said he may be able to decrease the number of sacrifice bunts, and score more runs with the middle of his lineup this year.
“I think a big part of it was getting out of their own heads,” Eriksen said. “We were hitting bullets right at people and our hitters were going 0-for-3 or 0-for-4, and we started thinking too much instead of sticking with the basics of hitting.”
The power surge in the middle of the batting order has molded the team into a well-rounded offensive unit.
The speed and bat work of sophomore D’Anna Devine batting first, junior Ashli Goff batting second and junior Courtney Goff batting ninth, or “The Little Rats,” as Eriksen calls them, keep defenders on their toes.
Each member of the trio can lay down a perfect bunt, slap a soft shot over the third baseman’s head or squeeze out an infield hit on a ground ball.
The diversity of the Bulls’ offense requires the opponent to defend every foot of the field, an element that hasn’t been prominent in several years, but is now the team’s identity.
“We have to be diversified as an offense,” Eriksen said. “It’s been a long time since everybody in the lineup is hitting, but when we face a tough pitcher we have to get that ball on the ground with a bunt.”
Sometimes teams fall in love with the home run, and it gets to the point where they expect it to happen, but “The Little Rats”, and even the mentality of the team’s power hitters, should keep the Bulls in good shape.
“I’d rather win games with base hits, they’re much more dependable” Spivey, who leads the team with 22 RBI, said
Not to be outdone, the Bulls have pitched six consecutive shutouts, including three by junior Sara Nevins and two by senior Lindsey Richardson.
Nevins’ earned run average has dropped below 1.00 for the first time since the beginning of the season, and Richardson is sitting at 1.29.
On any given day, each member of the Bulls’ two-headed monster can pitch with the best in the nation, a luxury that has been the most consistent component of the Bulls’ success in the past season and a half.