Urbanik’s big day aids sweep

Following the second game of the USF softball team’s doubleheader Saturday against Conference USA foe UAB, the announcer came over the loud speakers and announced something that caught USF freshman pitcher Danielle Urbanik by surprise.

The No. 19 Bulls were congratulating each other after a 3-0 victory, which was their second win of a three-game sweep against the Blazers, when the announcer revealed Urbanik had just tossed her first collegiate no-hitter.

“I didn’t even know I had a no-hitter because I knew that people had gotten on base,” Urbanik said.

Only a handful of UAB runners reached base against Urbanik, who struck out four and walked four in the game. Two Blazers (16-29, 3-15) were on in the seventh when Urbanik got UAB’s Dusti Roberts to ground out to third to end the game.

“A no-hitter doesn’t happen very often,” USF associate head coach Stacey Heintz said. “Danielle threw a great game. She stayed ahead in the count and mixed up her changeup very well. It just shows Danielle’s progress. She’s learning every day, and she’s getting better every day.”

Urbanik said she pitched well in the game but credited the defense in helping her throw the first no-hitter for USF (47-8, 15-3) this season. And it was the defense, specifically a play by shortstop Christi Chapman in the fifth, which helped preserve the no-hitter.

With one out in the fifth, UAB’s Nicole Whitlock hit a grounder in the hole between third and short. Whitlock thought she had a clean base hit and began to make a wide turn to round first, but Chapman fielded the ball running to her left and fired across the diamond to Carmela Liwag for the second out of the inning.

It was in the bottom of the fifth that the Bulls finally were able to break a scoreless tie. With the bases loaded and no outs, senior Holly Groves lined a two-run single down the left-field line for her 70th and 71st RBIs on the season.

Urbanik’s no-hitter was her second first-time occurrence in her collegiate career on the day after the freshman belted her first career home run in a 4-0 victory against UAB to start the series.

After Chapman hit a three-run double to right-center in the first, Urbanik closed the game’s scoring with a solo home run to right in the fourth.

“It’s nice. I needed that,” Urbanik said. “I hadn’t been hitting for a while.”

The four runs were more than enough for senior Leigh Ann Ellis, who tossed a complete-game shutout for her 31st win of the season.

Ellis then nearly followed Urbanik’s no-hit performance in Sunday’s series finale. Ellis (32-4) allowed just one hit while striking out nine in USF’s 8-0 mercy-rule shortened win, giving the Bulls their fifth consecutive C-USA series victory.

Senior outfielder Shelly Riker went 3-for-3 with a triple, scored a pair of runs and drove in two more to lead the Bulls.

Though the Bulls swept the Blazers, C-USA leader Louisville kept pace with a three-game sweep against Houston. USF still sits one game back of the Cardinals with six conference games left to play.

The Bulls return to action when they host Houston for a three-game series beginning Saturday.