Softball loses to FGCU, UF

Florida 5, USF 1

After failing to reach the NCAA Regional Tournament last year for the first time since 2002, the USF softball team kicked off its 2008 season this weekend by hosting the USF Wilson Tournament. The Bulls went 3-2 in the five-game tournament.

USF had an undermanned roster on Friday and Saturday, but were at full strength Sunday. Despite holding a 1-0 lead through the first three innings against No. 13 Florida, the Bulls (3-2) could not hold on to beat the Gators, who came away with a 5-1 victory in the final game of the tournament.

The Bulls had to play two games with only 10 available players Friday as coach Ken Eriksen suspended numerous players for violations of team rules.

Senior pitcher Courtney Mosch took the mound for USF in both games, and she played both games of the double-header as if fully rested.

Mosch won both of her starts Friday, a 3-0 victory over the University of Illinois and a 8-0 win against the University of Memphis Tigers, tossing complete games in each.

After 14 innings of work, she had a 0.00 earned run average and seven strikeouts.

Eriksen was impressed with the effort Mosch showed by pitching back-to-back shutouts.

“It was a pretty gutsy performance,” Eriksen said in a press release. “I don’t think you can have enough accolades for what Courtney Mosch did today. She was just so focused for 14 innings.”

After splitting Saturday’s games – defeating the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 8-0 and dropping their first game of the season 3-1 at the hands of the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles – the Bulls prepared for a tough early-season test.

The Bulls hosted the No. 13 Florida Gators on Sunday afternoon. Early in the game, USF had Florida’s All-American pitcher Stacey Nelson in a jam.

The Bulls had their first five batters reach base, and took an early 1-0 lead. Sophomore catcher Cat Olnick drove in the Bulls run for her first RBI of the season.

Despite walking three batters and only recording one strikeout, Mosch managed to keep the Gators off the board for the game’s first three innings.

The Gators, however, showed why they are the No. 13 team in the nation. Mosch allowed the first two batters of the fourth inning to reach base before being replaced by freshman Capri Catalano.

Nelson recovered to play like an All-American for the Gators. After allowing two hits in the first inning, she did not allow any over the game’s final six stanzas. She struck out 10 and retired 18 of the last 21 batters she faced.

“(Nelson is) a hell of a pitcher and she pitched a hell of a ball game today,” Eriksen said.

Catalano surrendered four runs in the fourth, two of them earned, and the Bulls trailed 5-1 when she was pulled late in the sixth inning.

Even though the Bulls suffered consecutive losses to end the weekend, Eriksen was satisfied with the way his team played in its first tournament of the season.

“I saw a lot of positives out of the team this weekend,” Eriksen said. “That was the first tournament against some pretty good teams. I liked the way we came together, and probably solidifying a pretty good lineup for us right now.”