Freshmen spark big weekend

On the opening weekend of its 2011 season, the USF softball team remembered its successful past and got a glimpse of its bright future.

After beating Marshall in the season opener for their 999th win in program history, the Bulls defeated Long Island 5-1 Friday night to pick up their milestone 1,000th win.

“It says a lot about the girls that were in this program for the last 25 years. There’s not many programs that can get 1,000 wins in 26 years,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “That’s a lot of wins for a softball program. It’s a testament to our whole program from day one in 1985 until today.”

The highly praised freshman class exceeded expectations as USF went 4-1 and took second place in the Wilson DeMarini Tournament at the E.C. Moore Complex in Clearwater.

“We talked in the fall about how this group has a chance to make some noise and this is just the beginning. What’s important to understand though is that the upper-class people have taken them under their wing and allowed them to be comfortable and you have to be comfortable to play well,” Eriksen said.

Pitcher Sara Nevins, from Pinellas Park, appeared in all five games and started one. Nevins pitched 13.2 innings, allowing four earned runs and picking up one win and two saves.

In her first collegiate start against Florida Gulf Coast Saturday, Nevins pitched six full innings, striking out 13 of the 23 batters she faced.

“Anytime you can put the ball in someone’s hand who’s throwing 67 or 68 miles per hour it’s like having (Major League Baseball Hall of Fame member) Goose Gossage out there throwing flames,” Eriksen said.

Shortstop Kourtney Salvarola, a freshman from Arnold, Md., sparked a Bulls offense that scored 29 runs in its first four games. She has also played shortstop for the U.S.A. Junior softball team.

Salvarola finished the weekend batting .500 with a team-high 8 RBIs. Against N.C. State Saturday night, Salvarola hit an inside-the-park home run to deep center field, her second RBI of the night. No. 6 Florida finished the weekend 5-0 and won the tournament title after beating the Bulls 12-0 in five innings Sunday.

The Bulls will return to Clearwater next weekend to host the USF Tournament on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fordham, UAB, Indiana, Ole Miss and DePaul will participate in the tournament.