Softball team picks up first victories, third place at tourney

GAINESVILLE – After the USF softball team came out of their first tournament with no wins, the team was able to leave the weekend’s GRU Classic with its first three wins of the season.Sunday, the Bulls finished the tournament in third place, defeating North Carolina 4-3, making the Bulls’ record 3-6-1. USF coach Ken Eriksen said the start of the Bulls’ season is starting to look the same as last year.

“Last year we started 0-5, and this year we started with no wins,” Eriksen said. “I hate to say it, but things are beginning to look like they’re mirroring (last year), but hopefully we will turn things around.”

The Bulls were behind 2-1 until shortstop Renee Oursler hit a homer to center field, tying the game 3-3. This gave Oursler her second home run of the season and tied her at fourth place for USF’s home run career list with eight.

Oursler said before going into the game that the Bulls needed to be aggressive in order to beat North Carolina again.

The Bulls were aggressive at the plate and broke the tie with North Carolina (1-4) in the sixth inning when center fielder Holly Groves scored the winning run from a double by first baseman Carmela Liwag.

The Bulls finished the GRU Classic 3-2, the same as last year, but last year they failed to beat the host Florida Gators. This time they succeeded to salvage a win against the Gators (2-3) on Saturday.

The Bulls ended the game 5-3, giving them their second win, which placed them as the No. 2 seed in the tournament and put UF at No. 3.

After spotting Florida a 3-0 lead, the Bulls tied it up at 3 when catcher Courtney Lewellen doubled with the bases loaded, driving in all three runners.

In the fourth inning, Oursler broke the tie when she knocked her first homer of the season over the left-field wall on a 2-0 pitch down the middle.

“It was right down the middle, so I got under it,” Oursler said. “I thought it was going to be a long out, but it got over.”

Freshman pitcher Niki Trowell earned her second win of the season when she came in as USF’s second relief pitcher in the fourth inning. Trowell was able to hold the Gators to three by only allowing three hits and one intentional walk.

In the sixth inning Oursler earned an RBI when she singled to shortstop driving in Holly Groves from third base who hit a triple to right field.

The seventh inning was stretched for Bulls defense just before bases were loaded for the Gators. Then, Eriksen called a timeout to speak with the infield, which he said was to lighten a serious moment.

“I walked out there and asked them where’s their favorite chicken wings- either at Hooters or Shorty’s over in Clearwater,” Eriksen said. “I tried to lighten up the moment a little bit. At that point you got to let them play.”

Oursler finished up the inning when she caught a fly ball at shortstop.

Eriksen said although they were able to beat Florida in the tournament this year, the win doesn’t need more acknowledgement, other than earning a win against a Southeastern Conference team.

“It’s a region win for us … they’re an SEC team,” Eriksen said. “But there’s no other emphasis on the Florida win than there would be against North Carolina or FIU.”

Eriksen said since their first tournament, which left them (0-4-1), the Bulls have improved their hitting, giving them 31 hits from five games in last weekend’s tournament.

“We’re more aggressive at the plate. We’re swinging the bat. We’re not standing there with the bat on our shoulders,” Eriksen said. “And if we’re striking out, we’re going down swinging.”

However, in the second game against the Gators later in the day, the Bulls were only able to earn three hits, giving the Bulls their sixth loss of the season when the game ended 4-1. The Bulls struck out six times and left four runners on base.

“We’ve got to execute the situation,” Eriksen said. “Whether it’s moving runners over with the bunt, slapping, those types of things are crucial.”

Trowell started and gave up seven hits – one of them being a home run over the wall in left field in the third inning from the Gators’ freshman pitcher Mandy Schuerman. With only one out in the inning, Trowell walked a batter and allowed two runners to earn a single.

With runners on first and second, third baseman Ginny Georgantas scooped up a grounder making a force out at third and just missed a double play when she threw the ball to first. Oursler closed the inning when she made a force-out at second base.

Georgantas earned the Bulls’ only run in the third inning when she scored from second on a double by Oursler, making the score 2-1 in favor of Florida.

The Gators earned three hits in the seventh inning and two runners scored to win 4-1.

Although Trowell got her second loss of the season, her 1.44 ERA stands at the top of the Bulls pitchers’ list for the season, as does her record (3-2). Trowell pitched 10 2/3 innings against the Gators on Saturday.

Eriksen said he didn’t want to take out Trowell in the second game because she gives the team a chance to win by challenging batters.

“She’s been throwing the ball well,” Eriksen said. “She’s been challenging the hitters early in the count, and when you do that, you’ve got a chance to win.”

USF beat North Carolina in the second tournament game on Friday 2-0, giving USF and Trowell their first win of the season.USF lost to Florida International University (6-5) in the first tournament game 6-4.

FIU won the tournament 5-0 Sunday against UF.

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