In the most important series to date this season, the USF softball team didn’t put up much of a fight.
The Bulls (32-18, 12-3) fell flat in their final home games of the season Wednesday, losing 1-0 and 5-0 to Notre Dame (35-8, 11-1) to drop out of a tie for first place in the Big East.
“We didn’t go out there today, to tell you the truth, with any aggression,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “I thought we played very tentatively defensively and offensively. I think we waited for ourselves to make mistakes, and when you wait for things like that to happen, they’re going to happen.”
In a battle of talented freshmen pitchers, USF’s ace Sara Nevins was out-dueled by Notre Dame’s Laura Winter. Winter’s very first pitch of the day hit USF leadoff batter Gina Kafalas in the facemask, but 76 pitches later she was engulfed by her teammates, celebrating a no-hitter.
At the start of the fifth inning, both pitchers were working on no-hitters. Yet, Nevins’ was broken up by Notre Dame left fielder Sadie Pitzenberger, who reached first base on a bunt single in the fifth inning. Monica Torres pinch ran for Pitzenberger and scored on a defensive miscue – scoring the only run Notre Dame would need.
Erin Marrone’s fly ball to left field appeared to be momentarily in Kafalas’ glove until a collision with left fielder Kelly McCarver jarred it loose, allowing Torres to score.
“It’s one of those things that you go over since Aug. 25. It’s the outfield communication play,” Eriksen said. “It’s two people calling for the ball right there and it was just a bad play. That’s all there was to it. If you want to point fingers at any one individual on that one, you can’t. It was both their issues.”
Nevins, who entered the day without allowing a run in her last 11 appearances, nearly extended the streak, but took the loss in game one.
Eriksen did not make any changes to his lineup for game two, allowing Nevins to return to the circle and continue pitching. In both games, she pitched 10 innings, allowing nine hits, two earned runs, three walks and 10 strikeouts. She also took the loss in game two, falling to 14-7 on the season.
The Bulls’ only hit of the day came in the sixth inning of game two on a single through the middle by Janine Richardson. It was USF’s first time being no-hit since suffering at the hands of a perfect game by UF’s Stephanie Brombacher on March 25 of last year.
Winter retired the last 19 batters she faced, completing the no-hitter with a Stephanie Medina fly ball to centerfield. It was only the second ball to reach the outfield in game one.
In game two, Fighting Irish sophomore Brittany O’Donnell nearly matched the performance of Winter, pitching six innings and allowing just the one hit to Richardson.
In relief for USF, Capri Catalano and Brittany Bowles each pitched two innings. Catalano allowed one run in her first appearance since April 15. Bowles surrendered two hits but no runs. USF’s other pitcher, Lindsey Richardson, was unavailable due to a concussion.
The Bulls now have more than a week to get ready for their daunting trip to Chicago to face DePaul in their next game May 7.