Conference slate awaits USF softball team

Now comes the rough part of the schedule for the USF softball team.

Playing 15 of its next 22 games against conference opponents, every match will be important in determining seeding for the conference tournament May 8-10.

The No. 23 Bulls (36-10, 6-3 Conference USA) will take another step toward a high seed this weekend, hosting Charlotte (14-14, 3-5 C-USA) for a three-game set. The Bulls play the 49ers in a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

As of Thursday, USF is in the No. 4 spot in the standings, while the 49ers are sitting at No. 6. The top six teams make it into the conference tournament.

The wins have been coming in droves at home, with the Bulls riding a 25-game winning streak on their turf. Their only loss at home was to No. 2 Arizona, a 3-1 loss during the USF-Louisville Slugger Tournament on Feb. 1.

The 49ers are led by senior pitcher Betsy Thompson and senior outfielder Kristy Constantino. Thompson has struck out 396 batters the past three years, while Constantino garnered second team all C-USA honors last year.

Seniors Courtney Lewellen and Renee Oursler have been a one-two wrecking crew for the Bulls this year. Lewellen is hitting a blistering .403, while Oursler is not too far behind at .387. Junior Holly Groves has matched the school mark for home runs in a single season with seven, while her 36 RBI are sixth best in school history. The .303 team batting average also tops C-USA.

Junior pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis continues to mow through teams, sporting a stingy 0.82 ERA and 196 strikeouts while compiling an 19-5 record. No. 2 pitcher, freshman Nicole Christensen will see action this weekend and is third on the team in ERA at 2.13 with a 4-4 record and 35 strikeouts.

Thomas Carrigan covers USF softball and can be reached at