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Bulls dominate stadium opener, struggle during tournament

At about “3:30 or 4:30” in the afternoon Thursday, coach Ken Eriksen said he wasn’t sure if USF softball’s stadium opener, scheduled for 7 p.m., was going to be played.

Shortly after, the fire marshal gave his approval, and the stadium was readied for its debut a few hours later.

USF (7-8) went 2-3 this weekend during the Fairfield Inn and Suites Tampa North Tournament.

The Bulls first-ever home game in the new stadium pitted them against Central Connecticut State. The game was delayed 30 minutes, but that was the only obstacle stopping USF from running through the Blue Devils to an 8-0 run-rule victory in five innings.

“There was a lot of energy in the park (Thursday) and our kids fed off of it,” Eriksen said. “I had to bring (the team) down. They were so jacked up I was afraid they would burn out in the first or second inning.”

USF played No. 15 Missouri in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. A pitching duel kept the scoring limited until Missouri scored a home run in the fifth with one runner on base. The Bulls avoided a shutout by scoring one run in the last inning of a 4-1 loss.

“Our offense did struggle along early but the defense did too,” Eriksen said. “When you’re in a tight ball game you have to play flawlessly and we’re not doing that yet. We haven’t proved that we can do that consistently.”

The Bulls ended the doubleheader beating Illinois State in dramatic fashion.

USF had a 2-0 lead going into the seventh inning courtesy of freshman Stephanie Medina’s two solo home runs. With two outs in the top half, the Bulls gave up a single and home run, allowing the Redbirds to tie the game.

After Erin Bly hustled to first base, forcing Illinois State’s lone error, junior Gina Kafalas and freshman Courtney Goff hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. With two outs, junior Janine Richardson hit a line shot down the left field line landing just fair to seal a 3-2 victory.

“I knew that if the people before me didn’t get them (home), I was going to get them in,” Richardson said.

No. 2 Alabama rolled over USF on Sunday to continue its undefeated season and win the tournament. Alabama used timely hitting to score in each of the first four innings of a 12-1 loss that lasted only five innings for USF.

The final game ended in frustration with mistakes and missed opportunities. The Bulls tied a season-high 11 runners on base and committed five errors in an 8-2 loss to Temple. USF left the bases loaded in back-to-back innings to start the game, which seemed to take all life out of the Bulls for the remainder of the game.

The USF softball team hosts Western Michigan on Wednesday at 6 p.m.