In a postseason that had all the little things seeming to go their way, the Bulls were came a couple inches short of remaining in Oklahoma City with a chance for the Womens College World Series championship. Instead, they find themselves more than 1,200 miles away, back home in Tampa.
After a 5-1 loss against Oklahoma to open the tournament Thursday, the Bulls were sent home with a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss in their elimination game at the hands of the LSU Tigers on Saturday.
Despite the loss, the Bulls trip home will come with the knowledge that they were responsible for the most successful season in USF softball history.
My team, wow, being the first team to get into a national championship venue, an event, any time youre the first is a phenomenal accomplishment, coach Ken Eriksen said. For what this team did this year with all the adversities, injuries, all those type of things that went on, its incredible.
The game went as expected, with two of the best defensive teams in the nation battling pitch after pitch.
With the game still tied at zero in the bottom of the sixth inning, mere inches would once again come to haunt the Bulls. All-Big East second team pitcher Sara Nevins exited the game, making way for Lindsey Richardson. An error on Janine Richardson and a hit batsman loaded the bases, setting up the only run of the game.
LSU sophomore Allison Falcon popped out to shortstop Kourtney Salvarola, but speedy Florida product A.J. Andrews tagged up at third and sprinted home, barely beating out Salvarolas throw home to score on an unconventional infield sacrifice fly.
Its just so tough. … Youre trying to catch up with it, throwing it from 92 feet away, youre trying to catch a kid whos already going forward in momentum and thats why theyre there with the leadoff positions, Eriksen said. They can run.
It seemed like the Bulls got a break when the Tigers did not start their first team All-American pitcher Rachele Fico, whose .92 ERA led the nation.
LSU instead went with BrittanyMack, who stepped in admirably.The senior scattered two hits over seven shutout innings, while striking out eight.
Youre in the final eight, youre going to see great pitching,Eriksen said. Youre going to see 0-0 games, and that one break is going to happen.
The Bulls had their share of chances against Mack, as they saw at least one base runner in each of the first three innings, including a dramatic third inning that almost gave USF the break it needed. Outfielder Ashli Goff led the inning with a walk, stole second and ended up on third on a throwing error. Goff attempted to sprint home on the same play, but was thrown out at the plate just inches away from taking the lead.
We were aggressive, Eriksen said. Ashli got an aggressive base-running deal. Their catcher made a great play at home plate.
One week after the Bulls sealed a spot in the bracket of eight with two wins over Hofstra, USF found itself in a similar position facing elimination.
The loss marks the end of a season of firsts for the USF softball team. It made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, won its first Super Regional game and made its first ever trip to the Womens College World Series.