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Pool play produces positive results

The USF softball team bounced back from a disappointing weekend in Arizona with a pair of victories Thursday in the first day of pool play at the Speedline Tournament at the E.C. Moore Complex in Clearwater.

The host Bulls defeated Mississippi 4-1 and Mercer 7-1 to move into a three-way tie for first place in Pool A, one of four pools in the 24-team tournament.

“We did a great job of coming out and scoring some runs and getting some timely hitting,” USF associate head coach Stacey Heintz said. “We would have liked to pick up our energy level a little bit, but we’ll get that back (today).”

The Bulls (18-5) face the other two undefeated teams in their pool, Purdue and Illinois-Chicago, today at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.

Against Mercer, the Bulls used a three-run fourth inning to blow the game open. Christi Chapman, Krista Holle and Kattrina Dowd each had an RBI single in the inning.

Holly Groves made it 5-0 in the fifth with a solo home run – her team-leading sixth of the season – while the Bulls added runs in the sixth and seventh on RBI singles from Dowd and senior Rena Rodriguez, respectively.

That was more than enough for freshman pitchers Danielle Urbanik and Kasey Cash, who combined to limit Mercer to five hits in the game.

Urbanik picked up the victory, striking out five in 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

The only hit she allowed was a two-out double in the first, and she never allowed a runner to advance past second base.

Though Urbanik seemed to cruise through the order for the most part, Heintz and USF coach Ken Eriksen decided to go to Cash with two-left handed hitters coming up with one out in the fifth.

“It was their third time through (the order), and it was just a good time to make a change and throw them off a little bit,” Heintz said.

USF didn’t need to make a pitching change in the first game, as senior Leigh Ann Ellis cruised to a complete-game victory against the Rebels. Ellis allowed three hits and struck out seven in the win.

USF plays Long Island on Saturday in the final game of pool play, as well as an exhibition game against the U.S. National team.

Each of the four pool winners advances to Sunday’s championship round.

The Bulls host the adidas Spring Break Tournament next week.