Another week, another record broken.
Four weeks after smashing the single-season strikeout record of 169, junior pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis continued to add to her reputation, as she won all three games in a sweep of Louisville this weekend.
The first victory against the Cardinals Friday was No. 26 for Ellis, setting a single-season record.
Ellis won two more games to extend her record total to 28 victories.
The southpaw wasn’t even aware she broke the record until after the game.
“I didn’t even realize that was the record until after the game when somebody told me,” Ellis said. “I knew I was coming close, but I wasn’t paying attention.”
For USF coach Ken Eriksen, Ellis’ dominance extends to the offense, as well.
“She deserves all the accolades in the world,” Eriksen said. “She does her job in the circle, and it gives us the opportunity to do our job at the plate.”
The sweep of conference foe Louisville meant a great deal for Eriksen. It ensures his No. 21 Bulls (46-12) a spot in the conference tournament and a top three seed.
“I can’t describe how big those wins are for us,” Eriksen said. “They clinch us to be above .500 in the conference record, and it locks us a spot in the conference tournament.”
Saturday, the Bulls took care of the Cardinals in a 3-2 win. Louisville jumped on starter Nicole Christensen for two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning before she gave way to Ellis, who struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings of shutout work.
The Bulls scored three runs in the second inning on three hits to take the lead and never relinquish it.
Friday, Ellis was her usual dominant self in the first game of the doubleheader. In the 7-0 win, Ellis struck out five in six innings, giving up two hits. Rachel Rosenbaum entered in the seventh inning to finish it.
Carmela Liwag hit her seventh home run of the year in the second inning to give the Bulls an early 2-0 lead.
USF added single runs in the third and fourth innings and three more in the fifth to shut out Louisville.
In the second game, Eriksen gave Rosenbaum her first career start. In her three innings of work, Rosenbaum gave up one run and four hits.
“Rachel was clutch,” Eriksen said. “I didn’t think she should’ve given up a run, and we should’ve made a couple plays. She did an outstanding job in the seventh inning of Game 1, and it gave her some confidence in Game 2.”
For her performance, Rosenbaum was given the game ball by Eriksen. Rosenbaum didn’t know she was going to earn the starting nod until game time.
“I didn’t think I was going to start. I thought if anything, I would maybe come in later,” Rosenbaum said. “I thought it was pretty good, but I could’ve done better. I could’ve thrown pitches a little farther off the plate to start off some of the batters.”
The Cardinals got the early lead in the first inning off an RBI single by Lisa McMillan. The Bulls tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning off a drag bunt by Renee Oursler. The bunt took the infield by surprise, as Oursler laid it down the third base line with the infield playing back.
“Their third and second baseman were back defensively, and we figured we could get a shot at it with Renee’s speed,” Eriksen said. “It did, and it worked out real well for us.”
The Bulls took the lead for good in the fifth inning. Liwag drove in Kattrina Dowd with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1.
Ellis shut out the Cardinals in four innings of work, striking out five to earn her second win of the afternoon.
Thomas Carrigan covers softball and can be reached at email@example.com