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Richardson, Fountain fuel run-rule victory

USF’s offense put the game away early and never let up in a dominant win over Western Michigan on Wednesday night.

The Bulls (8-8) sent four runs across the plate in the bottom of the first inning and cruised to an 8-0 victory in six innings.

“There were some clutch hits with two outs tonight,” coach Ken Eriksen said.

Gina Kafalas, Janine Richardson and Laura Fountain led the Bulls offensively with three hits apiece. Richardson started the scoring with a three-run home run in the first inning. Richardson and Fountain would both finish the night with four RBIs.

Sara Nevins earned her fourth win of the season, giving up only two hits and allowing no walks in the shutout victory.

“We may have had some tough hops that led to errors, but no walks,” Eriksen said. “She’s got some nasty stuff.”

The Bulls now look toward the USF Under Armour Invitational, which begins Friday. With one of the toughest schedules in the country, USF will face its fifth top-25 team and its third team ranked in the top five.

No. 5 Michigan comes in undefeated (17-0) after sweeping the UCF invitational with seven straight victories. Jordan Taylor (8-0) is Michigan’s ace pitcher with a 0.73 ERA and 80 strikeouts this season.

“Those teams are on the schedule to beat them,” Eriksen said. “They aren’t just on the schedule to play them. I think what we’ve seen so far in our schedule are starting to pay off. We’re not fazed by that quality of pitching anymore. We’re learning to win as a unit.”

USF will play Friday’s games at the new on-campus stadium against Ball State and Arkansas at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. respectively. Arkansas (7-8) surprised the country by upsetting then-No. 1 UCLA earlier this season. The Bulls will continue play on Saturday and Sunday in Clearwater.

A doubleheader on Saturday pits USF against Loyola Marymount at 12:30 p.m. and East Tennessee State at 3 p.m. The final game of the tournament will be played Sunday at noon against No. 5 Michigan at noon.

“We play a lot of great competition and to bring the great teams down en masse we just don’t have the number of fields,” Eriksen said. “It’s a great opportunity to come out and see the best softball in the country.”