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Tournament not kind to Bulls

Fatigued. Drained. Weary.

Just a few of the words to describe the USF softball team’s pitching staff after some tough games played at the Louisville Slugger Tournament.

The Bulls (15-12) battled against all five teams they faced — taking two contests into extra innings — but all they could manage was a 1-4 record.

“We got behind the eight-ball early in the tournament, but we showed a little bit of fight,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “But we’re just not playing great softball right now.”

On Friday, USF ran into a buzz saw and were ripped 9-0 in five innings by No. 7 Michigan. The Wolverines’ Tiffany Haas had two home runs in the game, including a grand slam in the top of the fifth that put Michigan up 9-0. The Wolverines’ Jennie Ritter pitched her second no-hitter of the season, going five innings with seven strikeouts and one walk.

That was just the beginning for the Bulls as they lost the next two games — a 10 inning marathon against Pittsburgh 4-3, and 6-5 to No. 15 Florida in nine innings.

USF pitcher Bree Spence (6-5) pitched six and a third against Pittsburgh and eight and two-thirds against Florida for a combined 15 innings over those two games.

With the pitching staff still reeling, the Bulls were defeated 7-1 by UT-Chattanooga on Saturday.

The Bulls finally got a win on Sunday, beating Jacksonville 8-6.

USF pitcher Nicole Christensen (1-0) got her first win of the season taking over for Spence in the bottom of the fourth.

“She (Nicole) did a really great job of coming in and relieving a very tired pitching staff,” Eriksen said.

Christensen went three and one-third innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run.

With the score at 8-4 in the bottom of the seventh, the Bulls held off a two-run rally by the Dolphins to get the much-needed victory.

“Hopefully, with (Christensen’s) enthusiasm and her drive, her work ethic, the rest of us can take upon that a little bit right now and carry it over into next weekend and the rest of the season,” Eriksen said.