USF takes three out of five

USF’s plan of a five pitcher starting rotation appears to be working early this season.

The Bulls, who use an unusual five-option rotation, finished the La Quinta Inn and Suites Tournament with three wins in five games behind three straight strong starts from its starters.

“It’s great to have the ability that if one of us is having a bad day, (USF Coach Ken Eriksen) can put any of us in to help each other out,” said senior starter Kristen Gordon, who allowed two hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings in Saturday’s 7-1 victory over North Dakota State.

Eriksen said he had no plans for a set rotation before the season, though he could call on any of the five starters. Gordon, freshman Lindsey Richardson, sophomore Brittany Bowles, redshirt sophomore Capri Catalano and sophomore Candace Howell have started.

“The deal is that all five are ready to go with each game and we see what the matchups are,” Eriksen said.

Richardson, who leads the team in ERA, gave up an earned run and struck out nine in six innings in USF’s 6-1 win against Wright State. Catalano gave up just one earned run in a 2-1 complete-game victory over Michigan State in the second game, followed by Gordon’s strong performance Saturday.

Richardson didn’t give up a run and struck out five in 2 2/3 innings in relief Saturday. Gordon bounced back from a rough first start when she allowed three earned runs in 1/3 of an inning pitched against Florida on Feb. 14.

“This team creates a great environment and is key to my success,” she said. “I struggled in a game last week, and their encouragement helped me bounce back.”

Senior third baseman Alison Savarese backed Catalano on Friday, adding to her home run total with a two-run homer. Savarese already has four this season – more than she had all of last year.

“Last year, I was very uptight and lacked a lot of confidence at the plate,” she said. “This year, I’m more aggressive and comfortable at the plate than I have ever been in my four years here.”

The Bulls (5-4) used offense and pitching to beat North Dakota State. USF scored six runs on five hits in the sixth inning behind outfielder Janine Richardson’s bases-clearing double.

The Bulls, however, dropped their last two games, scoring a total of one in two losses to NC State and Hofstra. Richardson gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings in USF’s 4-1 loss to Hofstra on Sunday.

“Were playing well right now. The games we haven’t won this year we’ve hit a lot of balls at people and failed to capitalize on opportunities,” Eriksen said.