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Bulls’ bats look to break Iowa

South Florida comes back from spring break with the daunting task of continuing its biggest winning streak of the season while hosting No. 16 Iowa at 4 p.m.

The keys to the Bulls current nine-game streak has been their ability to play solid defense, their pitchers getting ahead of the batters and players, such as Courtney Lewellen, Carmela Liwag and Holly Groves, getting hits and driving in runs.

Groves was selected as Conference USA’s hitter of the week and leads the Bulls with a .358 average 39 hits, 24 runs and three triples.

Lewellen is leading the team with 27 RBI and is second with 35 hits.

With the bats going so well, opposing teams that may feel the need to start pitching around them will be faced with other strong batters, such as pre-season all-conference pick Renee Oursler and last season’s all-conference pick Ginny Georgantas.

“It’s tough to pitch around them when they’re batting right after another,” head coach Ken Eriksen said. “When Courtney is hitting well, Liwag is getting good pitches. We’re hitting well right now, and I don’t think you can pitch around us.”

The pitching is also starting to take shape for USF, with Corin Tassio winning three games last week, allowing just three runs on 12 hits through 17 innings while throwing 12 strikeouts.

Getting ahead in the count, Tassio is feeling more comfortable on the mound and starting to throw her change-up more often.

“She is working ahead. She is mixing her change-up a lot,” Eriksen said. “When you’re ahead, you can do a lot of different things. When you’re ahead 1-0, the hitter doesn’t know what’s coming.”

Tassio and freshman Katie Dugger have both become successful lately and added to the firepower of staff ace Niki Trowell. That rotation mixed with Gail Callinan and Rachel Rosenbaum, coming back from an injury, has given the Bulls more pitching options.

“Rachel has added a lot of diversity,” Eriksen said. “Her off-speed stuff has really helped counter the velocity. We have a nice mix right now.”

Shelly Riker and Stephanie Roberts have been getting on base with a .509 and .354 on base percentage, respectively. Hitters, such as Lewellen and Groves, have been successfully driving them in. The young pitchers are settling down and providing defensive pressure.

Those factors hopefully lead to allowing the Bulls to do something they haven’t been able to do all season – defeat a ranked team.

  • Bryan Fazio covers softball and can be reached at