If defense wins games, then the No. 20 USF (48-12) softball team exemplified that philosophy Thursday.
The Bulls swept Stetson in a doubleheader, winning 4-0 and 4-3. Junior pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis dominated the Hatters in the first game, throwing a complete-game shut out while scattering four hits.
The Bulls’ defense was outstanding, recording only one error in each game.
“We had great pitching and defense in the first game,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “They were nice wins (Thursday), and anytime you go on the road and get two victories, it’s a bonus.”
In the second game, sophomore Rachel Rosenbaum made her second career start, giving up three runs and five hits in four innings. Ellis came in the sixth inning to record the save.
“In Game 2, we had another comeback victory,” Eriksen said. “Our pitching kept us in there, and once you get the lead, you bring in a kid like Ellis to get the save.”
In the first game, USF scored first and wouldn’t stop. Kattrina Dowd led off the game with a single to center field. After Dowd advanced off a sacrifice bunt and wild pitch, Courtney Lewellen singled to right field to drive in Dowd.
The Bulls then tacked another run in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
The Bulls fell behind early against Stetson in the second game. USF came back and took the lead for goodby scoring four runs in the top of the sixth.
Despite giving up three runs, Rosenbaum pitched well enough to keep the team in the game.
“She did her job,” Eriksen said. “With our offense, if we hold a team to two or three runs, we’ve got a good shot to win.”
The doubleheader sweep was fine tuning for the Bulls’ weekend ahead. The Bulls will host their toughest series of the year when No. 6 DePaul (34-4) rolls into town this weekend.
“I think they are pretty solid in pitching, defense and offense,” Eriksen said. “Leigh Ann matches up really well with (three-time all conference pitcher) Lindsey Chouinard. If we get good defense and timely pitching, we’ll be fine.”
If the Bulls sweep the series, they will take over the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament. The higher they’re seeded, the better the chance of them winning the tournament.
“We want to win the conference tournament and get the automatic bid,” Eriksen said. “It’s nice that we are in a position to look good if we don’t win it. Our goal is to win the conference, regionals and get to the College World Series.”
The Bulls will take on the Blue Demons in a doubleheader Saturday and the rubber match at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Thomas Carrigan covers softball and can be reached at email@example.com