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Softball team earns No. 3 seed in NCAA tournament

The USF softball team took a flight home from Louisville, Kent. After being eliminated from the Conference USA tournament.

When the Bulls landed, they found out they made the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

The Bulls are a No. 3 seed in the Tallahassee regionals, which will be played May 20-23.

“We are very excited for the opportunity to play in regionals,” associate head coach Stacey Heintz said. “And it’s great to be able to play in the state and have our family and friends there with us to join us as we go for our goal to play in the College World Series.”

The weekend wasn’t all good for the softball team, though.

With a trip to the C-USA tournament finals on the line, there was nobody else in the dugout the Bulls would have rather had at the plate.

Down a run in the bottom of the seventh inning against DePaul, Holly Groves stepped to the plate with the tying run on second and two outs.

Groves leads all Bulls hitters this season in batting average (.424), hits (89) and home runs (17) and leads the nation in RBI (80).

But Sarah Martz caught Groves looking at a third strike to end the game 4-3. USF’s hopes of winning its first C-USA tournament also ended with the team’s second consecutive loss Saturday.

Assistant coach Stacey Heinz said Groves was the player she wanted at the plate in that situation.

“I’ll put my money on Holly Groves every time,” Heinz said. “She’ll be in that same situation again and she’ll succeed a majority of the time. She’s had a great season and it was just a touch of bad luck.”

The Bulls lead 1-0 until DePaul put together a four-run fifth inning. The Blue Demons scored all four runs with two outs. Sarah Douglas hit an infield single, scoring one before Jenny Doezie was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Dana Kenney’s base hit scored two more to extend the lead to 4-1.

But USF would fight back in the sixth, when Groves got on with a single, later scoring on a passed ball, and Sarah Watson singled to score Christie Chapman, pulling the Bulls to within one.

“We had quite a few opportunities in that game to score runs and in (the sixth) we came through,” Heinz said. “DePaul stepped up and put some runs on the board and we came right back at it and put some up there as well. Unfortunately we were one short.”

In the seventh, Carmela Liwag hit a two-out double to keep USF’s hopes alive and set up Groves’ at-bat.

“The team is very disappointed,” Heinz said. “Our goal was to go out and win the conference tournament and it definitely had a disappointing ending.”

USF opened the tournament with consecutive wins, defeating East Carolina 7-1 Thursday afternoon and Louisville 1-0 later that night, sending the Bulls to the semifinals.

Friday’s semifinal against Houston was postponed due to rain, but the action picked up Saturday afternoon. A 7-3 loss to Houston put USF in the loser’s bracket, setting up the must-win game against DePaul.