Softball shuts Tigers out

In a doubleheader against the Towson Tigers (11-14), the Bulls (25-16) were able to execute coach Ken Eriksen’s philosophy: Advance the runner, apply pressure and pitch well.

USF’s pitching staff accounted for two complete-game shutouts leading to consecutive 3-0 wins at the USF Softball Complex. The Bulls had three bunt singles and three sacrifice bunts, which scored four runs.

Sophomore pitcher Bree Spence carried the Bulls to victory in the opening game, allowing five hits and striking out five while improving her record to 9-5. Towson left five runners on base in seven innings.

“We got a good game out of Bree. She minimized walks and was able to get the lead-off hitter out most innings,” Eriksen said. “We were able to hold a good-hitting team in check tonight.”

After three scoreless innings, shortstop Christie Chapman opened the scoring with a single to left-center field.

“The team’s philosophy is to hit the ball on the ground and make things happen,” Chapman said. “We implemented some hit-and-runs, and that gave us scoring opportunities.”

Towson’s closest scoring opportunity came in the fifth inning with runners on first and second and two outs. Chapman preserved the shutout with a leaping catch in the outfield grass.

“That was a good, athletic move. The infield was in and the outfield was deep trying to prevent two runs from scoring,” Eriksen said. “She had a lot of ground to cover and made one heck of a play. That was the key to the game.”

The Bulls struck early in the second game as Chapman lined an opposite-field RBI triple. Right fielder Tiffany Stewart followed with a sacrifice fly, giving USF an early 2-0 lead.

“I was glad that we were able to score some early runs, that took some pressure off the pitching and defense,” said freshman pitcher Cristi Ecks, who struck out 10 and allowed two hits while improving her record to 11-8. “Usually we score runs late in the game, but today was less stressful because we struck early.”

USF added an insurance run when second baseman Caitlin Schneider popped a bunt over the third baseman and earned her first career RBI. The run extended the Bulls’ lead to 3-0.

“We’ve been working on our small game a lot lately to get the runs across and try and mess up their defense,” Schneider said. “I was trying to put the ball on the ground, but it worked out for me.”

Of the three main tenets of Eriksen’s philosophy, players felt the pitching stood out the most.

“Our pitching was awesome,” Schneider said. “It’s fun and easy to play behind them because they get us good ground balls.”

Added Chapman, “Two shutouts is pretty unbelievable. They played tough and hit their spots.”