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Not good enough

USF 5 | Princeton 0

Pitcher Bree Spence pitched five shutout innings Tuesday, striking out two. ORACLE PHOTOS/MARLOW GUM

Even though the softball team won three out of four games in the past two days, that’s not good enough for head coach Ken Eriksen.

After dropping the second game of a doubleheader to Princeton 3-1 on Tuesday at the USF Softball Field, Eriksen believes his team lacks the mental toughness it needs to compete for a Big East championship.

“When you come here, you understand what the story is going to be,” Eriksen said. “You are tired – so what? You have a hangnail – so what? ‘I struck out the last time up’ – so what? You have to come to play every single at-bat and have to be mentally tough.”

The Bulls’ (27-15) offense struggled in the second game, missing eight opportunities to score a run or move runners into scoring position. USF struggled to get bunts down, instead popping the ball straight up in the air.

“(Sixteen) outs from pop-ups or strikeouts is unacceptable,” Eriksen said. “That comes from non-focus and not being mentally tough, and we showed that in the second game.”

Designated player JoJo Medina has hit three home runs in four games (two doubleheaders).

Princeton starter Calli Jo Varner kept the Bulls off-balance the entire game, scattering five hits over seven innings. Varner worked the ball on both sides of the plate and was jamming the Bulls’ hitters.

“(Varner) did a good job of pitching inside to us,” redshirt freshman JoJo Medina said.

Medina was the only Bulls hitter in the second game that could put a good swing on a Varner pitch. Medina hit a first-pitch screwball over the left-field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning. Danielle Urbanik followed with a single, but the rally was thwarted with three consecutive pop-up outs.

Eriksen said that these back-to-back doubleheaders would let him know if his team was ready for conference play.

“We are not ready for conference play,” Eriksen said. “We just showed that in the second game. We are going to play four games in two days in conference play and it shows that the first three games we will come out ready, but the fourth game we are just going to sit on our butts and assume we will win.

“So are we ready yet? I’m not convinced.”Cristi Ecks, who is battling through some midseason fatigue, got the loss. Ecks allowed two runs on five hits in five innings. Kristen Gordon pitched in her third game in two days, allowing one run on three hits.

Coach Ken Eriksen has compiled a 492-254 record in 11 seasons at USF. ORACLE PHOTO/MARLOW GUM

In the first game, the Bulls used timely hitting and dominant pitching in a 5-0 victory. Bree Spence went five strong innings, improving her record to 5-4 this season. Four players had RBI led by Medina, who went 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBI.

“I thought Bree did fabulous in the first game,” Eriksen said. “Bree got us off on the right foot and her ball was really snapping. She had good stuff.”

In the top of the second inning, Medina got the Bulls on the scoreboard with a solo home run to left field. Medina has three home runs in the last four games and is getting hot at the right time.

“It took me a while – longer than I wanted – but I think my swing is starting to come back,” Medina said. “I’m starting to see the ball better. That was the problem early in the season: I was swinging at bad pitches because I wasn’t seeing the ball.”

The Bulls blew the game open in the bottom of the fourth inning with RBI singles from Medina and Ashley Bullion and an RBI groundout from Aya Nakajima.