USF offense shines, defense pitches three shutouts in sweep of Rutgers

Picked in the preseason to finish fourth in the Big East, the USF softball team showed its intent to dominate conference play early, outplaying Rutgers in all three games of its first Big East series.

The No. 22 Bulls opened Big East play 3-0 and set a new school record for best start to the season with 9-0 and 11-0 run-rule wins Saturday. The team completed the sweep with a 1-0 win Sunday, with lefty Sara Nevins earning the win in all three games.

USF (29-5, 3-0) needed only eight offensive innings to post 20 runs Saturday in an offensive explosion.

It took less than an inning for the Bulls to take the lead in the first game, with Kenshyra Jackson hitting a two-run home run to give the Bulls the only runs they would need, though plenty more were on the way.

The next inning, Stephanie Medina hit a grand slam to right field to blow the game wide open.

USF also benefitted from a grand slam in the second game, this time for Stormi Grzybek. A senior, Grzybek has been used sparingly as a pinch hitter this season, but went 2-for-2 with six RBIs in her opportunities Saturday.

It was awesome, Grzybek said. (My teammates) asked me what I ate for breakfast because they were like, You need to eat it again tomorrow, nothing more, nothing less.

Coach Ken Eriksen said he enjoyed watching a role player flourish in her opportunity.

Its great for everyone on the team, he said. I think our bench is hitting about .043 this season, so for (Grzybek) to come in off the bench and do things is huge.

While power wasnt in short supply, the Bulls also played small ball well Saturday, with Ashli Goff earning daily MVP honors for getting on base often and helping the offense click.

Shes a table setter and to get those big bombers to drive in those RBIs and runs, youve got to have those little scat rats on base and she was our unsung hero today, Eriksen said. Little things win you ball games and shes a little thing and she does the little things right.

Sundays path to victory was different than it had been Saturday, but the result was the same.

Jackson picked up the only RBI of the day as the Bulls again shut out the Scarlet Knights in a dominant performance by Nevins, who improved to 16-2.

The Bulls now leave the Tampa Bay area for the first time this season for a Wednesday matchup against No. 4 Florida, which beat USF 3-2 in extra innings Feb. 12.