Softball sweeps through tourney, wins fifth straight

The USF softball team rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat Hofstra on Monday night in a game that had the look and feel of a College World Series title game.

After the Bulls beat Jacksonville 5-1 earlier in the day, the Pride jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning thanks to an RBI double by senior Tara Ulrich and an RBI single by sophomore Courtney Oliver.

After Hofstra’s initial runs, the game turned into a pitcher’s duel with neither team allowing an earned run for the next four innings. Bulls freshman Christi Ecks (3-2) struck out six batters in the contest and allowed five runs, only one of which was earned. Hofstra freshman pitcher Kayleigh Lotti (2-1) allowed five runs on six hits in the game, all of which came in the final two innings during the Bulls’ late rally.

“We never hung our heads,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “I thought we picked each other up real well, and our big-time players came up in big-time situations and made big-time plays.”

The game took on its championship feel in the sixth inning after the Pride had taken a 3-0 lead. After singles by junior Kattrina Down and senior Samantha Ray, Hofstra’s Lotti walked senior Tiffany Stewart to load the bases. Bulls freshman JoJo Medina came up to the plate and nailed a double off the right-field fence to bring in all three runners and tie the game 3-3.

Hofstra regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth after junior Ashley Lane drove in two runs on a single that was mishandled by the second baseman.

In the seventh inning, Bulls senior Christie Chapman came up to the plate with bases loaded, two outs and USF facing defeat. With the count at 2-2, Chapman caught an inside pitch and nailed a line drive down the third baseline to bring in three runs and give USF its first lead of the game.

“Basically, I knew she was going to try to get me inside because that’s where she struck me out earlier in the game,” Chapman said. “I was thinking away, but I knew she was going to go inside so I just tried to get my barrelhead to the ball, just drive down on it and make something happen.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Hofstra’s attempted rally was thwarted when Stewart made a diving catch to rob Oliver of a base hit to right centerfield. The Bulls held on to defeat the Pride 7-5.

Eriksen felt the tournament was a good turnaround for his team.

“I was pretty happy with the tournament, bouncing back and going 5-0, and you know, I told our team prior to the tournament that I thought we were finally going to get it going here and finally the chips started falling our way.”