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USF sweeps Connecticut, tied for first in Big East title race

Keeping the Bulls close in a tight race for a Big East title, the USF softball team completed a three-game sweep over Connecticut.

USF (32-16, 12-1) defeated Connecticut (17-23, 5-8) 9-2 and 2-1 in a doubleheader Friday before closing the series with an 8-0 victory Saturday. The Bulls scored first in all three games, improving their record to 26-3 this season when scoring first.

Sophomore right-hander Lindsey Richardson started both games Friday, pitching 6.1 combined innings with nine strikeouts, four hits allowed and two earned runs, bringing her overall ERA to 2.65.

Freshman lefty Sara Nevins (14-5) earned two victories, including a complete-game shutout in game three. It was a record weekend that saw her reach the No. 6 spot on the school’s list of strikeout leaders in a season with 170, surpassing USF pitching coach Monica Triner’s 169.

She also reached the top spot for saves in a season with eight.

Connecticut sophomore ace Kiki Saveriano started in all three games, increasing her consecutive starts to 12.

Saveriano’s relief help, Ali Adelman, struggled to pitch a total of .2 innings in two games, giving up six walks and five runs while facing 12 total batters and getting only two outs.

“We’ve got four (pitchers),” coach Ken Eriksen said. “We can go to any one of them. They have only one of them. Saveriano is their No. 1, and they have to go to her all the way.”

A pitching duel kept game one quiet until the Bulls scored two in the third inning. Connecticut countered with back-to-back solo home runs. The first forced Richardson out of the game, and the second came from the next batter, who faced junior righty Brittany Bowles.

Saveriano could not hold off USF, as the Bulls scored three more runs in the fourth inning and one more in the fifth before being replaced. Adelman walked in three more runs before being replaced.

Nevins closed out the game for the 9-2 victory. Bowles – celebrating her 21st birthday – picked up the win to improve her record to 6-2 on the season.

The Bulls played a bit of small ball in the bottom of the first inning of game two, manufacturing a 1-0 lead that the Bulls clung to until a Connecticut sacrifice fly in the fourth-inning tied the game.

The Bulls responded in the fifth when Gina Kafalas scored from first base after a hard ground ball from Ashli Goff rolled up to the Connecticut second basemen and skipped past a pinched in right fielder.

Nevins relieved Richardson and shut down any chance of a Huskies comeback by preventing any batter she faced from reaching second base.

USF reached base in all five innings of an 8-0 run-rule victory Saturday.

A team effort scored two runs in the third and fourth innings before scoring four more in the fifth to end the game.

USF now sits tied with DePaul at the top of the conference standings. It hosts third place Notre Dame for a doubleheader Wednesday before traveling to Chicago this weekend for a three-game set against DePaul.