USFs season ends after first-round exit from Big East tournament

A season that showed so much potential for the USF softball team fizzled out quietly Thursday with a first-round exit from the Big East tournament.

Powered by dominant pitching and a strong freshman class all season, the Bulls had their eyes on a Big East title and NCAA Tournament berth. Yet those hopes ended as fourth-seeded USF lost 2-0 to tournament host Louisville.

Sitting at 12-1 in Big East play April 23, USF had a legitimate shot at earning the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament. After that, the Bulls went 1-4 to close out the season, falling to the No. 4 seed.

USF went against Louisville without head coach Ken Eriksen due to a one-game suspension. Against DePaul on May 8, Eriksen pulled his team off the field in the second inning for “concerns related to the safety and welfare of … team members,” according to a statement from USF Athletics, resulting in a forfeit and one-game suspension. Had the Bulls won that game, they would have been seeded third and played Pittsburgh instead.

With assistant coach Stacey Heintz leading the team, the offense went hitless until the fifth inning and failed to score a run.

Freshman left-hander Sara Nevins kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard until the sixth inning, and allowed just four hits in the game. But with no support from the offense, her performance wasn’t good enough. Designated player Stormi Grzybek and left fielder Kelly McCarver had the only two hits of the day for USF.

Ending the season at 33-21, USF falls two wins short of the minimum number of wins Eriksen thought would get the team an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls are now likely to miss out for the third straight season – the longest drought of Eriksen’s 15-year tenure at USF.