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Winning streak launches Bulls into the Top 25

When the USF softball team lost to Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 8, it was the Bulls’ third loss in four games after a 6-1 start.

Since then, the Bulls haven’t lost a single game, riding a 10-game winning streak.

USF also reached the Top 25 rankings for the first time since the 2002 preseason rankings. The Bulls are ranked No. 22 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association and No. 24 in the Softball polls.

The Bulls (16-4) will try to make it 12 in a row when they take on Oakland in a doubleheader today.

The 10-game winning streak is the fifth-longest streak in coach Ken Eriksen’s seven-year tenure. The 16-4 is the best start to the first 20 games since 1998 when USF also had a 16-4 record.

The Golden Grizzlies come into Tampa with a 2-4 record. Oakland went 26-38-1 last year, finishing runner-up in the Mid-Continent Conference with a 12-8 record.

Senior Erika Burns comes in as the hottest player for Oakland. Burns was the Mid-Continent Player of the Week for her play in the Cox Communications Classic at the University of Florida last week. Burns batted .385, leading an upset of No. 24 Georgia Tech.

Pitchers Julie Anderson and Nicole Marzano each have sub 2.00 earned run averages. Anderson, a senior, leads the team with an 1.25 ERA and a 2-1 record with 13 strikeouts. Marzano, a sophomore, is sporting a 1.80 ERA with 10 strikeouts, despite a 0-2 record.

Senior catcher Courtney Lewellen and junior pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis look to continue their success for USF this weekend after sweeping the Conference USA Hitter and Pitcher of the Week awards.

Ellis has a 7-2 record with seven complete games and 75 strikeouts. Lewellen leads the team with a .481 average, with 25 hits and 14 runs batted in.

Junior pitcher Corin Tassio will also share the pitching load against Oakland. Tassio shares the team lead in wins with Ellis with a 7-2 record while sporting a team-leading 1.57 ERA and 24 strikeouts.