The Bulls have been counting down to the opening weekend of the 2013 season since they returned from a loss in the College Softball World Series last June.
The team relinquished its anxiety as it hosted the USF-Wilson DeMarini Opening Day Tournament over the weekend at the USF softball stadium, winning three of four games.
USF faced off with Florida Atlantic University in Sundays finale, and senior Lindsay Richardson made her fourth appearance of the tournament and second start. She allowed four hits and one earned run in seven innings.
Lindsay matched up really well with FAU, coach Ken Eriksen said. They have some big right-handed power hitters and shes been spinning the ball really well.
A Salvarola error that scored a run in the first inning proved to be a crucial mistake for USF. FAU held a 1-0 lead until the seventh inning, when Alexa Ballard hit Richardsons first bad pitch of the weekend over the left field wall for a 2-0 lead.
USF made a push in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Courtney Goff scored on a Lee Ann Spivey double, but it was too little, too late. FAUs Samantha Messer pitched a complete game and handed USF its first loss of the season, 2-1.
Richardson had pitched a no-hitter in Fridays season opener against Marshall, and from there the bulls dominated the tournament with offensive its performance. Senior Kenshyra Jackson batted in three runs and junior
Kourtney Salvarola batted in two runs. The Bulls notched an 8-0 run-rule win in five innings.
Richardsons start on Friday allowed Eriksen to save his ace, junior Sara Nevins, who was a finalist for USA Softball National Player of the Year last season, for a Saturday start against the No. 13 ranked Michigan Wolverines.
The junior left-hander had a shaky first inning.
After Nevins walked a batter, Wolverine shortstop Sierra Romero sent a two-run home run over the left field wall to jump out to the early 2-0 lead.
But the Bulls bounced back immediately as shortstop Kourtney Salvarolas lead-off single set the tone for the USF offense. Salvarola then stole second base, and Ilaura Reeves scored on freshman Lee Ann Spiveys single to tie the game 2-2.
Nevins returned to her normal form for the rest of the game, striking out nine Wolverines in six and two-thirds innings.
Richardson recorded the final out of the game to earn the save as the Bulls won 3-2.
Thanks to Salvarola, the Bulls started quickly again in their second game Saturday against Samford.
In the first inning, Salvarola was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on an infield sacrifice, advanced to third base on a wild pitch and then scored on a bunt from Stephanie Medina. In the fourth inning, Lee Ann Spivey hit a double and scored on a Morgan Litchfield single. In the fifth inning, Kourtney Salvarola shined again with a solo home run to center field for the third and final run of the game.
The Bulls collectively pitched the second shutout of the weekend and won 3-0.
Even with a loss, Richardson was the star of the tournament. She allowed only four hits in 13.1 innings. Eriksen said that he will probably use Richardson less in next weekends tournament.
Lindsay was a bulldog for us all weekend, Eriksen said, She only made one or two bad pitches.
Though the Bulls suffered a disappointing loss on Sunday, Eriksen said the team learned which players can step up in big moments, such as Spivey, Salvarola and Richardson.
Eriksen said the 48-hour wait until the Bulls next practice will teach the team that they cant make the same mistake twice.
The team faces North Carolina State on Friday afternoon, before another showdown of Top 25 teams on Saturday against the