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Softball team falls in title game

When the dust on the diamond finally settled, Saturday had turned into Sunday, and the USF softball team found itself in a NCAA Regional championship game.

Then, 13 hours later, the Bulls, for the second time in as many days, lost to Bethune-Cookman College 5-2 in Gainesville.

The Wildcats, who beat the Bulls 8-4 on Saturday, scored three runs in the first inning to put USF in an early hole. In the second inning, the Bulls started to climb back with two runs to cut the deficit to one.

But squandered chances (the Wildcats committed five errors) doomed USF, which stranded 10 runners.

After B-CC added two runs in the sixth, USF brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh but Danielle Urbanik popped out, ending the threat, the game and the Bulls’ season — which, for the third consecutive year, ended in NCAA Regional competition.

To advance to the championship game, the Bulls had to endure rain and delays, not to mention a feisty UCF team. A three-hour, 23-minute rain delay, which struck during USF’s first loss to B-CC, forced the Knights and the Bulls to start late and end after midnight.

And if it wasn’t for Bulls outfielder Samantha Ray, it could have been even later.

In the bottom of the seventh, after UCF scored three runs to tie the game at four, Ray drove in the winning run with a double to left-center field.

The Bulls needed all seven innings to defeat the Knights. On Friday, they needed only five. In each team’s opening game, USF used a seven-run third inning and a five-run fourth to earn a 14-3 mercy-rule win.

With the season over and the Big East on the horizon, the Bulls appear to be in good shape. Their three top pitchers — freshman Bree Spence and sophomores Danielle Urbanik and Kasey Cash — are all returning. The lineup will stay mostly intact, with senior first baseman Carmela Liwag, who hit .325 this season, as the only starter not returning.

Coach Ken Eriksen could not be reached.