USF hopes to keep sweeping

It wasn’t long ago that the USF softball team opened its conference season with a pair of losses on the road to Conference USA foe Louisville. However, since then the Bulls haven’t lost a game, bringing their season-high winning streak to 16 games.

After sweeping each of their last three C-USA opponents, the No. 18 Bulls (42-7,10-2) will look to make it four series sweeps in a row when they travel to East Carolina for a three-game set against the Pirates (37-11-1, 4-8) this weekend.

USF is tied with Louisville for the best record in C-USA. However, the Cardinals own the tiebreaker in the head-to-head matchup after winning two of three games against the Bulls this season.

But the Bulls are still off to their hottest start ever under USF coach Ken Eriksen. By starting last weekend’s conference series against Saint Louis with a victory, the Bulls have now posted 40 or more victories in seven of Eriksen’s eight seasons as head coach. With 42 victories now, the Bulls also have a shot to break the school record of 57 wins set in the 1998 season, Eriksen’s second season, which led to an NCAA Tournament berth.

Groves, Ellis on watch list

Senior standouts Holly Groves and Leigh Ann Ellis are among the finalists for the third annual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, which is considered the Heisman Trophy for collegiate softball.

Ellis and Groves each survived the first cut, which narrowed the list from 40 semifinalists to 25 finalists. The last cut will be made April 28, trimming the list to10 players. Groves leads the Bulls and Conference USA in nearly every offensive category this season. She is hitting .447 with 12 home runs and 69 RBIs. Groves’ home run and RBI totals this season are both single-season school records, while her RBI total is also a C-USA single-season record. Ellis leads the Bulls and C-USA in wins (28) and ERA (0.77). In her last 30.1 innings, Ellis has not allowed an earned run, and in her last 17 appearances, Ellis has not allowed an extra-base hit.