There was an audible gasp in the USF Softball Stadium on Sunday as Syracuse pitcher Jenna Caira sent a 0-1 pitch to the base of the wall in right-center field. At the time, USF’s freshman pitcher Sara Nevins was just two outs away from recording a no-hitter.
“(It was) definitely my best performance,” Nevins said.
Instead, Nevins settled for a complete game-shutout that capped a three-game sweep over defending Big East champion Syracuse (24-8, 3-3). She appeared in all three games, picking up two wins, while striking out 24 batters in 14.1 innings of work.
“(Nevins) did a phenomenal job,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “She hit her spots and got ahead in the count.”
The Bulls offense lifted the pressure off pitching by scoring at least two runs in the first inning of all three games. USF (22-15, 4-0) is 17-2 this season when scoring first and 15-4 when scoring in the first inning.
“If you win the first inning, you win the ball game,” Eriksen said. “I thought we did what we needed to do on our game plan. Put the ball in play early and run like crazy to make things happen and we did.
“That was the No. 1 team in the conference,” he said. “It is nice to beat teams in the conference, but when other teams say things, it makes it a little sweeter to beat them. (The Bulls) don’t want to be pushed around anymore. That’s the way it used to be here, and that’s the way it’s going to be here.”
The Bulls defeated Syracuse 3-1 in the first game with defense and early scoring. USF scored its three runs all in the first inning, but solid pitching by Lindsey Richardson made it enough for her seventh victory of the season. Richardson pitched five innings, giving up only three hits and no walks.
Nevins closed the game striking out five of the last six batters.
Game two of Saturday’s doubleheader began as a mirror image of the first, with the Bulls taking an early lead. USF scored in bunches for a 7-3 victory highlighted by a long two-run home run in the third inning by freshman infielder Kourtney Salvarola.
Nevins pitched 5.1 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. Brittany Bowles and Richardson closed the game to secure the victory. All fours runs Sunday were scored in the first inning, courtesy of Syracuse’s five defensive errors.
The Syracuse school record for errors in a game is five – a total it matched in just one inning. The USF softball team gets a break from conference play as it heads to Daytona Beach on Wednesday to play a doubleheader against Bethune-Cookman.