Bulls avoid sweep

Having lost two games Saturday, the USF softball team was determined to not get swept by Conference USA foe Southern Miss on Sunday.

It didn’t.

Leigh Ann Ellis shut down Southern Miss 7-0 at Hattiesburg, Miss., recording her eighth shutout of the year. It was the only victory of the weekend as the Bulls (34-10, in 6-3 C-USA) dropped two of three against the Golden Eagles (14-17, 2-4 in C-USA).

Ellis pitched her 19th complete game of the year in the victory, scattering five hits and two walks while striking out six to run her record to 18-5.

Seniors Courtney Lewellen and Renee Oursler led the offensive charge. Lewellen drilled a two-run double to left center in the top of the first. Carmela Liwag followed up in the second inning with a two-run single, scoring Shelly Riker and Samantha Ray before Lewellen drove in Liwag with her second double of the afternoon.

In the fifth inning, Oursler stroked her third home run of the year, a two-run shot that hit the left-center field scoreboard.

“I thought our offense was pretty good Sunday,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “We scored 17 runs in 14 innings (Saturday and Sunday).”

Despite two home runs from Holly Groves and one from Liwag, the Bulls were swept for the first time in a doubleheader this season, losing 2-1 and 10-9 Saturday. Errors hurt the Bulls in the 2-1 loss, as they committed three to the Golden Eagles’ zero.

“If you don’t avoid walks and errors, you give the team extra at bats”, Eriksen said. “At the same time, we left a lot of people on base. We just hit the ball right to them.”

Liwag drove in the first run of the afternoon in the top of the fourth inning, drilling a 1-2 pitch off Southern Miss pitcher Jessica Holaway (7-9) over the right center field fence for her sixth home run of the year. It wasn’t enough, as Holaway shut down the Bulls the rest of the way.

Ellis took the loss, striking out four while giving up seven hits.

“Saturday just wasn’t our day,” Eriksen said. “We weren’t able to break through.”

In the second game, the Bulls seemed unable to do anything right, quickly falling behind 8-0.

However, the Bulls closed that lead to four in the top of the fourth. Liwag led off with her second extra-base hit of the afternoon, a triple to right-center field.

After Lewellen reached base on an error, Groves hit a three-run home run. In the top of the fifth, the Bulls again pushed across four runs.

Behind 10-8, Groves hit her second home run of the game, a solo shot in the top of the sixth. In the top of the seventh, Riker lined out with the tying run on base.

Even with the loss, Eriksen was proud of his team’s spirited comeback.

“There’s no give-up in them,” Eriksen said. “That’s the mark of a championship team right there.”

Freshman Nicole Christensen dropped to 3-4 for the year, getting rocked for 11 hits and seven runs, four earned, in 2 2/3 innings.

The Bulls next play Jacksonville in a doubleheader Thursday.