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Switch pays off

Tied 3-3 in the top of the fourth inning against Auburn Saturday night, the USF softball team needed to come back if it wanted to earn its fifth victory of the season.

Then coach Ken Eriksen made the switch.

Eriksen pinch-hit Sarah Watson in place of ninth hitter Samantha Ray with two outs and a runner on. And what was the result?

Watson promptly delivered the first hit of her college career, a two-run home run on the first pitch, to put the Bulls up 5-3.

“Sarah Watson is a heck of a hitter,” Eriksen said. “I figured that we could take a shot at it with Sarah, driving the ball and getting it to the green grass and scoring a run, and it just so happened that she connected pretty good on that one.”

The Bulls went on to win 6-4 en route to four victories this weekend. USF defeated Northwestern 3-2 and Sam Houston State 6-2 Friday, lost to No. 2 Arizona 3-1 Saturday and beat Florida Atlantic 4-1 Sunday. USF now stands at 6-1 for the season.

Against Northwestern, the Bulls were scoreless until the top of the sixth inning. After Courtney Lewellen, Holly Groves and Renee Oursler all singled to load the bases, Krista Holle delivered with a two-run single to center field. After scoring again in the top of the seventh, the Wildcats pushed across two runs in the bottom of the seventh, but Eriksen brought in Corin Tassio to finish off Northwestern.

Against SHS, the Bulls got off to an early start, scoring three runs in the bottom of the third to go up 5-2.

Against No. 2 Arizona Saturday, USF took the quick lead, striking first in the bottom of the first inning. Stephanie Roberts reached first on a passed-ball strikeout, then advanced to second off a Carmela Liwag hit-and-run. Lewellen then drove her in with a single to right center field. However, the Wildcats scored two runs in the fourth inning and tacked one on in the seventh.

Before the Arizona game, Eriksen told his squad to take this game like any other.

“I told them to approach Arizona like they approached Sam Houston or Northwestern,” Eriksen said. “We have a very good team right now and they’re playing well at this point of the year. I told them to play their game and take it one pitch at a time. It may sound (cliche) but if we can do our best on each pitch, then we have a great shot.”

The Bulls certainly took that advice to heart later that night. USF came out with a furious charge, loading up the bases in the top of the first against Auburn. Kattrina Dowd led off with a single to left, Liwag singled and Lewellen walked, setting it up for Oursler. Fighting off a 3-2 count, Oursler nailed a shot down left field for a three-run double.

“I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” Oursler said. “I was trying to make contact and put the ball in play.”