Softball shuts out Central Michigan

Sophomore second baseman Britta Giddens is small in stature at 5-foot-3, but carries a big bat in the softball team’s lineup.

Giddens displayed some of that power in a 3-0 victory over Central Michigan on the final day of the Louisville Slugger Tournament in Clearwater.

She hit a two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning to give starter Cristi Ecks some breathing room in the bottom half of the inning. Ecks allowed the first two runners to reach base in the seventh inning, but used an unusual out and two strikeouts to close the game.

“Britta came up big for us and from batting practice on, I knew she was going to be phenomenal,” assistant coach Amber Wright said. “She was focused at the plate – and in the field – and did a great job for us.”

After the first two Central Michigan (2-8) batters reached base on consecutive singles, Ecks struck out left-fielder Christina Novak. During the at-bat of Kari Seddon, USF catcher Laura Wolf went to the mound to chat with Ecks. None of the umpires called timeout and Amber Olejniczak, who was on second base, left the base to talk with her coach and was called out for leaving the base too early.

Ecks took advantage after the second out, striking out Seddon to end the inning and preserve the shutout.

“She worked ahead of batters frequently and her ball had great movement,” Wright said. “She did a great job of battling out of trouble in the seventh.”

USF (14-7) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. With two outs, Ashley Bullion singled, Giddens reached on an error and Danielle Urbanik singled to load the bases. Courtney Mosch, who went 2-for-3, followed with an RBI single to score Bullion.

Ecks didn’t need much run support, allowing only three hits in the complete-game victory. Ecks struck out 10 Central Michigan batters, which put her over the 280-strikeout plateau with 283.

“Cristi was dominant the entire game and had control of all her pitches,” Wright said. “She was on her game and throwing the ball great.”

The Bulls, who were scheduled to play five games over the weekend, played just two games due to inclement weather. Rain delayed the start of the tournament on Thursday and forced cancellations of games on Saturday.

The rest USF received was much needed, as the Bulls had played eight games in a one-week period. The cancellation also gave the pitching staff a day off.

USF’s bullpen was used up on Friday against Auburn in a 9-0 loss to the Tigers. The Bulls used three different pitchers, including starters Bree Spence and Mosch. Mosch got the loss, going 2 2/3 innings while allowing four runs on four hits, walking two and striking out one.

Auburn’s Anna Thompson had more success on the mound, throwing a two-hit shutout. Thompson had 14 strikeouts and two walks in the win.

“She was one of the best pitchers we have faced this season,” Wright said. “She throws the ball hard and did a great job on the mound mixing up her speed.”

The Bulls mounted only one scoring opportunity against Auburn, in the bottom of the third inning. USF loaded the bases, but once again struggled to get a key hit with runners in scoring position.

“I think the game might have been a little different if we would have scored some runs in that inning,” Wright said. “Any time you can break through for a couple of runs, it can change the momentum and the pace of the game.”