Oracle Insight: Softball Year in Review

Though the team came into the season with a key transfer in Jessica Mouse and a maturing ace in Sara Nevins,no one could have predicted the season the USF softball team was on the brink of achieving.

Despite struggles, the Bulls made the 2012 season one to remember, with a journey that may have been even sweeter than the finish. The Oracle takes a look back at what turned out to be a historic season for the team.

The Bulls opened the season with an afternoon doubleheader on Friday, Feb. 10. For the second consecutive season, USF welcomed its fans on opening day into the USF Baseball and Softball Complex.

After wins over Maine, Florida Gulf Coast and Long Island, the Bulls closed opening weekend with a loss to second-ranked Florida in extra innings. They swept through the USF Invitational to bring their record to 6-1 before preparing for five straight games at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater. The different location didnt affect the play of the team, however, as the Bulls went 4-1 before returning home for their final game of February against No. 16 Michigan, which they won 2-0.

After a strong opening month that saw them build up an 11-2 record, the Bulls played in the Under Armor Invitational, returning again to Clearwater. Losses to Loyola Marymount and Miami (Ohio) forced them to a 2-2 split in four games and dropped the Bulls to 13-4. USF then won six games in a five-day span, highlighted by back-to-back no-hitters by Sara Nevins. Her second no-hitter, against Toledo on March 11, was her first career perfect game.

The dominant stretch brought the Bulls into the national rankings for the first time in 2012, where they debuted at No. 24. After a loss to Fairfield, USF embarked on a remarkable winning streak, including the final 12 games of March. The streak was highlighted by a walk-off win over No. 21 Florida State and a revenge match with the Gators in Gainesville,returning the favor with a 4-1 road win. Nevins continued her strong performances and closed out March with a bang, pitching her third no-hitter of the season in Pittsburgh, in the first game of a three-game sweep of the Panthers.

April marked a continuing strong streak for the Bulls, as they picked up seven straight wins, taking their winning streak to a school record of 19. The Bulls also continued their climb in the national rankings, making 17th in the nation. On April 14, the streak ended in the second game of a doubleheader against UConn, when the Bulls lost 7-3.

Despite the loss, the Bulls had a 39-6 record and were 12-1 in the Big East, good for first place. The second half of April was a tough stretch for the Bulls, a 15 day span that saw the Bulls stumble to a 5-2 close.

The beginning of May seemed to have an ominous tone for the Bulls, as they lost their final regular season series to Syracuse and were victims of a no-hitter to close the regular season. Things got even worse for USF when it lost 6-0 to DePaul in the Big East Tournament opener, ending its postseason run early and sending the team home to wait for NCAA Tournament selection.

From May 10, little went wrong for the Bulls as they entered the NCAA Tournament by way of the Gainesville Regional. USF swept through Gainesville with three wins in three days, including a 1-0 win over the crowd-favorite Gators, led by a five-hitter pitched by Nevins. The win sent the Bulls to the NCAA Super Regionals for the second time in school history, and for the first time, it was hosted by USF.

The Bulls drew Hofstra in the super regionals as well as its ace, Olivia Galati, who pitched all 27 innings of the series and allowed just 5 runs. The Bulls bounced back from an opening loss to win their first two super regional games in school history on May 26. Nevins was credited with both, giving her all five of USFs postseason wins, and the Bulls were on their way to the College World Series in Oklahoma City.

There, the Bulls drew a tough opener, the hometown Oklahoma Sooners, who used a three-run sixth inning to bury the Bulls. USF followed with a second loss to LSU, which ended its season.

The 2013 season will begin in February.