The USF softball team showed the merit of its No. 21 ranking and outdueled one of the nations premier programs Wednesday night, downing No. 4 Florida 4-1 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville.
Florida has qualified for four consecutive Womens College World Series, but the Bulls made a major statement of their intents to reach Oklahoma City, snapping the Gators 16-game home winning streak the fifth-longest in the nation.
The Gators beat USF 3-2 in Tampa in an extra-innings affair Feb. 12. This time, the Bulls were the team celebrating on their opponents home field.
USF couldnt have asked for a better start, with Ashli Goff walking before a Stephanie Medina single to left field. A Kenshyra Jackson walk loaded the bases for the Bulls, with none out in the top of the first inning.
The next two batters, Kourtney Salvarola and Janine Richardson, each drove in a run, giving the Bulls a 2-0 lead before the Gators even had a chance to bat.
In the top of the third inning, USF added two more runs, increasing the lead to an insurmountable 4-0 with the help of a Florida error.
Florida (29-3) scored a run in the fourth inning, but was severely limited by USF sophomore Sara Nevins.
Nevins entered the game with the nations lowest ERA and carried the Bulls to a milestone win, beating Florida for the first time in their last 12 attempts. She allowed one earned run on six hits, picking up her 17th win of the season in a complete game performance.
She absolutely pitched tonight, coach Ken Eriksen said. The aspect of pitching, hitting your spots and making their hitters do what you want, its a sign of maturity. Its a maturity situation where you know you dont have your heat, you cant go out there and blow it by a certain team, but you can still pitch to your locations and get outs. The team that gets the outs fastest wins most games, and she did that tonight.
USF could have added more runs, loading the bases without scoring in both the sixth and seventh innings, but the Gators didnt make them regret wasting their chances.
Florida brought the potential game-tying run to the plate in the sixth inning, but, after a visit from Eriksen, Nevins induced a ground ball to shortstop from Ensley Gammel to end the inning and the Gators hopes of a rally.
It was important to leave her in there and show her that she can do it, Eriksen said. Really, when I went out there the last time, it was like, Come on, kid. My wife is expecting us home by 11 tonight, everyones got class tomorrow, lets stop messing around and go, and she was giggling and laughing a little bit. It got the job done.
Nevins appreciated the morale boost that allowed her to finish the game.
It makes me glad to know that he has that kind of confidence in me, she said.
The Bulls now leave Florida for the first time this season, heading to Pittsburgh for a Saturday doubleheader and Sunday matinee.