Softball drops first Big East game, 11-1 in conference

After starting its inaugural year in the Big East with an 11-0 conference record, the USF softball team got its first mark in the loss column Sunday when it dropped the second game of a doubleheader 1-0 to Syracuse.

The Bulls (41-20, 11-1 Big East) extended their Big East unbeaten streak to 10 games with a doubleheader sweep of Pittsburgh on Friday before battling back from a one-run deficit to defeat Syracuse 3-1 in the first game of their doubleheader Sunday.

Game 1: USF- 3, SU- 1

“You have to give it to Bree (Spence),” coach Ken Eriksen said. “She struggled through some things in the first game and battled in some crucial situations to keep us in the ballgame, and then we came up with some timely hitting from our seniors to put it all together.”

Sophomore pitcher Spence (19-6) avoided some dangerous situations in Game One, including forcing a ground out to end the fourth inning with bases loaded when the score was still tied at zero.

Spence allowed her only earned run of the contest in the fifth inning, which gave Syracuse a one-run advantage. The Bulls then rallied in the sixth to take a two-run lead after RBI by seniors Christie Chapman, Tiffany Stewart and freshman Ashley Bullion.

Freshman Cristi Ecks relieved Spence in the seventh inning to earn her third save of the year in the 3-1 win.

After finding their bats late in the first game, the Bulls seemed to lose them again in Game Two.

Due to the dominating pitching of Syracuse senior Alexis Switenko, the Bulls were held hitless through most of the second game and failed to score a run in the contest, losing by a final score of 1-0.

“Well, first off, you’ve got to give credit to Syracuse’s pitcher,” Stewart said. “I mean, she came out and did her job. We were coming off some big wins, and we were 11-0, and I think we just kind of let our focus down a little bit, and that was a problem.”

Senior Krista Holle spoiled Switenko’s no-hitter when she nailed a line-drive single to right field in the seventh inning.

Holle’s late-inning hit was the only one of the game for the Bulls.

“I don’t really know (what happened),” Holle said. “Our bats were just kind of silent today in the second game, and that game could’ve gone either way. Our pitcher pitched well, we just couldn’t produce a run when we needed it.”

Although she was credited with the loss, Ecks (17-11) had a solid outing in the second game. The freshman allowed two hits, one run and struck out four in seven innings of work against the Orange.

Despite his team earning its first conference loss of the season, Eriksen felt his players performed well over the weekend and knows how to appreciate a good softball game.

“It was just a great game,” Eriksen said. “I mean, what are you going to do? I thought we did play well this weekend. (Switenko) threw a great game at us, and I thought Cristi Ecks matched her very well as a freshman against a senior. (Ecks) only had five base runners, and I think their pitcher only had three, so it was kind of a classic pitcher’s duel for sure.”