Bulls win invitational

USF entered the Under Armour Invitational this weekend in a “funk,” coach Ken Eriksen said. Fortunately for the Bulls, pitching carried them out of it.

USF (17-10) went 4-1 en route to the Under Armour Invitational championship, which was held at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex in Clearwater.

“Our pitchers have been studying hard, especially this week,” Eriksen said. “They’re taking the time to study and see what they can do better. They got ahead in the count, and if we can avoid the walks and errors, we can start to win some ball games.”

Junior Kristen Gordon led the Bulls on the mound. She pitched a complete game shutout Friday, allowing two hits and 12 strikeouts in a 2-0 win over Fordham.

“I was able to use a lot of different pitches and approaches,” she said. “I have to give credit to coach Eriksen’s pitch calling, as I was able to mix everything up and keep the hitters off balance.”

Eriksen said he was impressed with Gordon’s performance.

“Kristen Gordon is a student of the game,” he said. “She’s been going in and looking at statistics and working hard on her game. It really paid off for her against Fordham.”

Saturday, the Bulls got standout pitching performances from senior Bree Spence and
freshman Brittany Bowles. Despite a 2-0 loss to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, Spence pitched six innings and struck out nine batters. In USF’s 2-1 win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack, Bowles allowed one run and struck out six in five innings.  Bowles said her team’s defense deserves credit.

“I went out there and was confident in the defense behind me,” Bowles said. “All I had to do was to go out there and throw and everything fell into place.”

On offense, the Bulls were led by junior first baseman JoJo Medina. Medina’s three-run home run in the first inning set the tone for USF’s 7-3 victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies on Friday. She said the pitching performances allowed the hitters to relax.

“It was nice to get the team off to a good start,” Medina said. “It’s a group effort, and the pitching staff gave us the opportunity to do our job this weekend. It’s going to help us become a better team.”

Despite this weekend’s performance and results, Eriksen said his team still has a lot of work to do.

“It’s great to beat two teams from the (Atlantic Coast Conference),” he said. “However, we have to go out and take care of business against other teams. Lehigh has a great team and it’s easy for people to get caught up into schools with big-name football programs. We need to string a few games together and play consistent ball.”