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Second-place Bulls to host Connecticut

Finding itself out of first place in the Big East race for the first time this season, the USF softball team will look to continue its strong run through conference play with a three-game series against Connecticut – a series that begins a crucial five-game conference home stand for USF (29-16, 9-1).

DePaul, the new leader in the Big East standings, also has only one Big East loss. Yet with one more victory on their record they have a half-game advantage over USF. The Bulls will close the regular season with a three-game series against DePaul in Chicago.

Connecticut (17-19, 5-5) is hoping its junior leadoff hitter, Julianne Towers, will provide a spark against dominant pitching from hard-throwing left-hander Sara Nevins and sophomore Lindsey Richardson. Towers is fifth in the conference for batting with a .385 average. She is also tied for second in the Big East for doubles, at 14, and in total bases, at 92.

Similar to USF, the Huskies boast a youthful lineup. After Towers, there are only three other upperclassmen in the Connecticut lineup. With the Bulls lineup posting five freshmen, this series may simply come down to which underclassmen play better. This includes the pitching match-up of USF’s Nevins, a freshman, versus sophomore Kiki Saveriano.

Saveriano has started 26 of Connecticut’s 36 games, including each of its last nine games, with an overall 3.21 ERA. Saveriano is tied with both Nevins and Richardson with 10 wins, but has more losses than both of them combined.

Another member of USF’s phenomenal freshman class, first baseman Stephanie Medina, plans to stay hot offensively after retaking the team lead in batting averages last weekend. After a five-game hitting slump she went 5-for-10 with eight RBIs against Seton Hall last weekend, with three of those hits earning extra bases. She leads the Big East in RBIs with 48 and now boasts a .371 overall average.

“That was all hard work and she really put the extra effort into it this week,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “I think she wasn’t in a very good comfort zone the last four games. She really worked hard this week to get back to being comfortable. She got some pretty good pitches and took advantage of it (last weekend).”

The Bulls lost their first game of conference play against Seton Hall last weekend, effectively knocking them out first place in the Big East standings since conference play began. These standings determine the seeding for the Big East tournament.