Rain washes out tourney final

GAINESVILLE — Sometimes statistics are misleading.

The USF softball team was 6-1 heading into the University of Florida tournament this weekend, but the Bulls lost three in a row to Florida, No. 8 Oklahoma and Illinois-Chicago to drop their record to 6-4.

They came back to defeat Oklahoma Saturday afternoon, earning a spot in the championship game against Florida Sunday. The championship game was canceled due to inclement weather, negating a rematch between the Bulls and Gators.

Friday, the Bulls dropped their games to Florida 4-3 and Oklahoma 4-1.

Against the Gators, USF started off hot, scoring two runs in the top of the first. After Kattrina Dowd and Stephanie Roberts singled, Krista Holle hit a two-run single down the left field line, scoring both players.

In the top of the third, Courtney Lewellen reached base on an infield single. Two batters later, Christie Chapman singled up the middle, scoring pinch runner Rachel Rosenbaum.

The Bulls’ 3-0 lead didn’t last. Up 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, UF batter Kristin Butler lined a pitch off the glove of Holle to reach on an error. Prissie Walden then singled to right field, and both runners moved to third and second on a sacrifice bunt. Lindsey Cameron then doubled over the outstretched glove of right fielder Renee Oursler to drive in the winning runs.

Leigh Ann Ellis took the loss for the Bulls, allowing seven hits, striking out six batters in 6 1/3 innings pitched. The defense allowed a season-high four errors in the game.

“We’ve got to start being a little bit more efficient in the game, to leave a little bit in the gas tank at the end,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “If you’re throwing 20 pitches an inning early on, you’re going to start tapping into the hundreds before the sixth or seventh inning comes along.”

Against Oklahoma on a chilly evening, the Bulls’ bats were silent for the most of the night. The Bulls loaded the bases early in the top of the first, but the threat was extinguished as Oursler struck out. In the top of the third, Holly Groves drove in Roberts for USF’s lone run to tie it at one.

Oklahoma busted out in the top of the third, getting three runs off four hits, including a two-run home run, chasing USF starter Corin Tassio. Eriksen brought in reliever Gail Callinan for her first appearance of the year, and Callinan went on to throw 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball.

“Callinan was outstanding,” Eriksen said, “Anytime you come in against the No. 8 team in the country and shut them down like she did for over four innings, I think it’s impressive. It’s a credit to her work ethic, and she did a great job.”

Despite losing to both teams in close matchups, Eriksen wanted his team to continue fighting the rest of the tournament.

“You can’t concern yourself with two games,” Eriksen said. “One game we definitely let get away, and one game that just wasn’t our day. Their infields made some great plays against us, a couple bounces off of our bats didn’t go where they should have, and it just wasn’t our day.”

The Bulls lost their first matchup Saturday to Illinois-Chicago 8-6. Making her first start of the year, Nicole Christensen was rocked, giving up six runs (four earned), and five hits in 1 1/3 innings pitched. Lewellen and Oursler each had two RBI for the Bulls.

In their rematch Saturday against Oklahoma, USF prevailed 5-4. The Bulls came out swinging, scoring five runs in the top of the first. Carmela Liwag nailed a RBI double, Groves hit an RBI single, and Chapman drove in two off an error by the left-fielder and later scored off a passed ball.

Giving up four runs, starter Ellis went the distance, allowing two walks and eight hits for her third win of the season.

The Bulls return to action Friday, hosting the USF Wilson Tournament. Slated to appear are Notre Dame, Jacksonville, Rhode Island, Kent State and Hofstra.