Softball wins three of five at tourney

With an 8-0 mercy-rule victory over Siena College (6-17) on Sunday, the USF softball (28-18) team wrapped up its final tournament of the regular season and earned some much-needed rest.

“Well, I think we’ve come to the end of a long road,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “We’ve played, I think, 24 games in 18 days, and we kind of hit a wall a little bit on Saturday.”

On Friday, USF defeated Siena College 8-0 and Troy University 2-0 to extend its winning streak to six games. On Saturday, however, the Bulls’ exhausting schedule seemed to catch up with them as they dropped games to both Mercer, 5-3, and Troy, 17-5.

“You know, it catches up to you after a while,” Eriksen said. “Really, Saturday was just a terrible day for us, and we were fatigued. That’s all you can attribute it to because we’re really not playing bad softball.”

Since March 9, the Bulls have played in 24 games spanning four tournaments and haven’t had a break longer than two days during that period.

Sophomore pitcher Bree Spence (11-6) acknowledged her team’s strenuous schedule but feels that mental toughness is the key to overcoming the fatigue.

“Of course, any time you’re playing 18 games in 13 days over spring break, it’s going to take a toll on your body,” Spence said. “But, I mean, it’s kind of that mind-over-matter thing. You have to focus, and you can’t pay attention to it. You just have to do what you do and work through it.”

Spence, who allowed only three hits in the Bulls’ 8-0 victory over Siena on Friday, was disappointed with her performance on the second day of the tournament and looking to make up for it when she took the mound to face Siena once again Sunday.

“(Saturday) wasn’t one of the greatest days,” Spence said. “I mean, we had a pretty embarrassing performance against Troy, but that happens to all teams, and I just wanted to come out (Sunday) and prove that I wasn’t tucking my tail between my legs and giving up.”

Spence proved she was far from defeated Sunday as the sophomore pitcher struck out 10 batters and allowed two hits in the Bulls’ 8-0 mercy-rule victory.

Sophomore Carly Griffin also made a large contribution to the victory and felt that the Bulls’ rebound from Saturday’s losses was largely due to increased focus.

“I think we just came out a lot more focused today,” Griffin said. “I don’t think it was anything specific; we just came out more focused as a team.”

The right fielder went 2-for-3 and tallied her first career grand slam in the win against the Saints.

Eriksen feels that his team has done a good job of battling through its rigorous schedule and is optimistic about the final stretch of the season.

“I think we played, by and large, pretty well over the last few games,” Eriksen said. “We’ve been playing around .700 softball, so like I said before, I think we’re moving in the right direction.”