Bulls look to continue Big East surge

SOFTBALL GAME TIMEPittsburgh (21-14, 6-2) at USF (32-13, 7-1)When: Today, 4 p.m.Where: USF Softball ComplexTV/Radio: None

Despite losing its first conference game to Villanova, the USF softball team remains No. 1 in the Big East, ahead of Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh. This weekend, the Bulls will take on two more conference opponents: Pittsburgh (21-14, 6-2) and the University of Syracuse (14-19, 5-3).

The Bulls (32-13, 7-1) go into the weekend matchup having won seven of their last eight games.

Despite his team’s loss in its previous game, coach Ken Eriksen was pleased with the effort the Bulls showed against the Wildcats.

“We’re playing well – sometimes. I was not disappointed in our effort at all last week – we’re looking forward to tomorrow and Sunday,” Eriksen said.

The last time the Bulls and the Panthers faced each other was in the Big East Championship quarterfinals. The Bulls defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 in extra innings.

With the game tied 1-1, senior outfielder Kit Dunbar hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score the runner in the eighth inning and win the game.

Pittsburgh is third in the conference in pitching, behind the Bulls, with a team ERA of 1.66.

The Bulls lead the all-time series against Syracuse 2-1.

The Orange are coming off of back-to-back wins against Niagara, thanks in part to sophomore pitcher Brittany Gardner, who struck out 10 batters.

The Bulls’ pitching staff has stepped up in the past four games after losing their No. 3 pitcher, junior Cristi Ecks.

“No one injury is going to set us apart from anybody else – we have a lot of talent, a lot of depth on our team, and right now we really need to dig deep and utilize that,” Eriksen said. “The girls are really pulling it together and doing just that.”

The Bulls held their previous two opponents to 10 runs while scoring 24 runs of their own.

After USF went 3-1 against Rutgers and Villanova last week, the Big East recognized sophomore JoJo Medina for the second time this year on the conference honor roll.

Medina recorded five RBI with a .636 batting average and a home run.

Medina, along with junior second baseman Britta Giddens and sophomore Alison Savarese, combined for 15 hits and 13 RBI for the team.

“I think it’s important when you can put Britta Giddens and Jojo Medina back-to-back, and when Allison Savarese is swinging the bat really well,” Eriksen said. “If the middle of the lineup is hitting the ball well, they’re going to have to pitch to JoJo and she’s going to take advantage of that.”