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Softball wins four this weekend

Entering the season, South Florida softball coach Ken Eriksen said his pitching staff serves as one of the team’s major strengths.

And with solid pitching and clutch hitting, the Bulls won four of five games to capture the USF Louisville Slugger Tournament title this weekend at the USF Softball Field.

“We came out with a 4-1 record this weekend against decent competition,” Eriksen said. “I thought overall it was a great start to the season.”

On the mound, senior Cristi Ecks led the Bulls. She gave up zero runs in 10 innings pitched against Illinois State and Florida Gulf Coast. 

“Cristi was being Cristi,” Eriksen said. “The great part of her performance was that she was able to get help from the pitching staff. It gave her the opportunity to take Saturday off after pitching Friday so that she could be healthy on Sunday to throw hard.”

The Bulls had several critical hits throughout the weekend.

Against UNC Greensboro, junior third baseman Alison Savarese had a two-run single and junior catcher Cat Olnick hit a three-run home run, accounting for all of the Bulls’ runs in the 5-2 win.

Despite having two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, USF suffered a 4-3 loss to Minnesota. Golden Gophers’ Dannie Skrove made a spectacular dive in center field to catch freshman shortstop Laura Fountain’s line drive.

The Bulls bounced back, though. Led by second baseman Britta Giddens’ grand slam in the fifth, USF defeated North Florida 5-1.

“She threw it on the inside part of the plate, and I just took a hack,” Giddens said. “I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it.”

In the championship game against Florida Gulf Coast, the Bulls got solid pitching from Ecks and freshman Candace Howell, and junior right-fielder Tara Toscano hit a dribbler up the first base line to score the game-winning run.

“Last year, we weren’t able to get the clutch hitting like we got this weekend,” Eriksen said. “It’s nice to get good pitching and give this team an opportunity to score runs. I was very happy with the middle of our lineup.”

Giddens said hitting could be a strength for the team this year, as well.

“This team can hit really well on all levels,” she said. “We played great this weekend, and it shows how far we will be able to go this year.”