Ellis, Stewart power Bulls to win

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and the USF softball team nursing a five-run lead against Hofstra in the final game of the USF-Wilson Tournament, senior Leigh Ann Ellis knew one pitch wasn’t going to beat her. However, that didn’t stop her from wanting the one pitch that got away from her back.

That’s because Ellis’ pitch to Hofstra’s Adrienne Clark got blooped into left field, ending her chance at a no-hit victory.

“I threw the ball right down the middle of the plate,” Ellis said. “As soon as I let go of the pitch, I was like ‘Oh no!’ (and) I just wanted it back.”

Though Ellis couldn’t put the exclamation point on a near flawless performance, she settled down and retired the next batter to preserve a 5-0 victory for the Bulls (10-2) and a one-hit shutout.

“It’s a great outing,” USF associate head coach Stacey Heintz said of Ellis’ performance. “I’m sure she was a little disappointed (because) the pitch didn’t go where she wanted it to go.

“(But) any time you hold a team to no hits in the seventh inning with two outs, you have a good shot.”

Though Ellis nearly grabbed the no-hitter, it didn’t seem she was destined for a great game following a slow start in the first.

After striking out the first batter, Ellis hit a batter and walked another before getting out of a first-inning jam.

“I came off a hard game against Michigan State that took a lot out (of me), and I was hard on myself at the end of the game,” Ellis said. “I just wanted to settle in, get things under control, and I think it took me a couple of innings to get back in a groove.”

All it took was the first inning, as Ellis rebounded and retired the next 12 batters in order. She didn’t allow another person to reach base until a leadoff walk in the sixth, and no Hofstra (1-3) runner advanced past second base in the game.

“It was just nice to see her get back on track and stay focused and not fall apart right after that,” Heintz said.

Ellis finished the game with four strikeouts, two walks and just the one hit.

The Bulls got all the offense they would need in the top half of the first. USF loaded the bases on a walk, a single and an error, giving Tiffany Stewart a chance to give the Bulls the lead with one out.

Stewart then drove Alexis Alcantara’s pitch deep into the gap in left center, where two Hofstra outfielders collided, giving Stewart a bases-clearing stand-up triple and the Bulls a 3-0 lead.

Stewart then capped the Bulls’ scoring in the fifth when she followed Holly Groves’ leadoff double with an RBI single to right. Stewart finished the game 2-for-4 with a run scored and a season-high four RBI.

“We’re definitely looking forward to Tiffany Stewart progressing,” Heintz said. “She’s someone who’s getting better and better every day, and she’s going to be a huge contributor to our team in our RBI department.”

The win gave the Bulls a 2-1 mark at the tournament, but Ellis understands the team must show the type of consistency displayed Monday in order to build on its second consecutive victory.

“When we’re hitting and we’re pitching and we have the defense, everything is going smooth,” Ellis said. “We just have to make sure all those things stay consistent, because if one of those things goes out of whack then people start to freak out a little bit.”