Bulls give mercy

After starting off the season 2-4, the USF softball team has outscored its opponents 19-4 in its last three games to post its first winning record this year. The Bulls improved to 5-4 after defeating Temple, the College of Charleston and Florida A&M during the first two days of the Wilson Invitational Tournament.

USF snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday when the Bulls defeated Temple 11-4 in a game that featured multi-hit performances by five USF players. The Bulls held a 5-2 lead going into the seventh inning when they exploded for six additional runs to put the game out of reach for the Owls.

When USF returned to the field Sunday for a doubleheader against the College of Charleston and Florida A&M, it was the Bulls’ starting pitchers who put on a show. Freshman pitcher Christi Ecks earned her third win of the season in the Bulls’ 1-0 victory over Charleston. In the fourth inning, senior Christie Chapman scored the only run of the game when she recorded her second home run of the season. Ecks (2-2) allowed no runs, six hits and struck out seven batters in the shutout.

The Bulls’ dominating defense continued in the second game thanks to a solid performance by pitcher Bree Spence (2-0). After the Bulls jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Spence took the field and proceeded to shutdown the Lady Rattlers. The right-handed sophomore pitched her first shutout of the season, allowing no runs and only three hits in the Bulls’ 7-0 victory over Florida A&M.

“Well, we came out aggressive, you know,” Spence said. “We were looking to (mercy) run-rule them, and even though we didn’t do that, we just wanted to come out for every pitch and every at-bat and play as hard as we (could).”

Coach Ken Eriksen is pleased with the play of his team so far in the tournament and feels that the Bulls are finally getting some of the breaks that were eluding them in the first few games of the season.

“Well, you know, it’s funny because we talked earlier as a team and feel that, at this point, we could actually very easily be 9-0,” Eriksen said. “We’ve (been playing) pretty good softball, we’ve had some bad breaks on the field with some bounces and some calls by some umpires, but by and large, we’ve been playing pretty good, and kind of today it all came together.”

The Bulls also recognize how important it was for them to bounce back from a mediocre start of the season and get some wins in the Wilson Invitational.

“I mean, as far as confidence wise and everything (it’s big),” Spence said regarding the victory. “Not only does it look good in the numbers, but you know, it boosts our confidence, and it feels good, and it’s a win.”

Eriksen feels that the level of pitching has had a lot to do with the Bulls’ success lately and looks forward to seeing the team’s progression throughout the season.

“We had two pitchers that stayed consistent (today), and minimizing the walks is going to keep us in ball- games,” Eriksen said. “We just have to keep battling and getting better. We have to be better tomorrow than we were today. That’s all we can do.”