USF softball coach Ken Eriksen talked earlier in the season about his team’s lack of mental toughness.
That was put to the test on the road this weekend, and Eriksen was impressed with his team’s response.
After losing two tough games on Saturday against DePaul 2-0, 2-0, the Bulls bounced back with a sweep of third-place Notre Dame in South Bend. USF’s pitching depth was leading force against the Fighting Irish consecutive 3-1, 3-1 victories.
“This was a big sweep for us trying to solidify the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the Big East,” Eriksen said. “To win on the road against a team that’s ahead of us in the standings so these two wins were huge.”
The two victories on Sunday gave Eriksen his 500th career victory and has more wins than any active USF coach. Eriksen, however, put the focus squarely on his players.
“It means more to me that we won two games on the road,” Eriksen said. “The players worked hard, battled and got two victories. That’s what these wins mean to me.”
Cristi Ecks got her ninth win of the season in Game 1 against Notre Dame allowing one run on four hits in four innings. Bree Spence pitched 2 1/3 innings of relief and Kristen Gordon got the last two of the game for the save.
“That’s our style of softball putting our two horses in their giving us all guts because they haven’t been healthy,” Eriksen said. “They both came to me before the game and said they wanted the ball and that’s the kind of staff we have.”
Cat Olnick stepped up in a big spot in the top of the third inning to give the Bulls a 2-0 lead. After loading the bases, Olnick smashed a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a double to plate two runs.
Notre Dame scored in the bottom of the third inning to cut the lead in half. However, junior right-fielder Kit Dunbar added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning with an RBI double.
“She put the nail in the coffin for us with that hit,” Eriksen said.
In Game 2, Britta Giddens and Tara Toscano led the way with two hits and one RBI apiece. After falling behind 1-0 early, the Bulls scored three runs in the fifth inning to take the lead.
Courtney Mosch got the win going 4 1/3 innings allowing one run on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Gordon came on for 2 2/3 innings of relief for her sixth save of the season.
On Saturday, it was an error late in the game that plagued the Bulls in a 2-0 loss to DePaul. USF struggled with runners in scoring position stranding six runners on base in the loss.
In Game 2, DePaul jumped out to a 2-0 lead and the Bulls again couldn’t come up with a big hit with runners in scoring position. In the top of the seventh, USF had the tying runners on base with one out, but Becca Heteniak shut down the last two batters to thwart the rally.