The No. 12 ranked USF softball team (6-3) was tied at zero with the No. 4 ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers (10-0) for five innings on Saturday.
But hopes of defeating a top five opponent went astray in the sixth inning.
USF junior pitcher Sara Nevins was in the midst of throwing a no-hitter against a Tennessee offense that featured three 2012 All-Americans and came into Saturdays contest averaging 9.7 runs per game this season.
With two outs, Tennessees junior Melissa Davin squeezed out an infield single to notch the first hit for the Volunteers.
Tennessees senior outfielder Kat Dotson then batted in pinch-runner Whitney Hammond to score the first run of the game.
The Bulls were still in good shape and would have escaped the offensive barrage, if it werent for an ill-timed defensive error by first baseman Stephanie Medina.
Medina, a junior, attempted to catch a softly-hit ball a couple feet into foul territory. As the ball descended, it deflected off the outer part of her glove, and bounced into fair territory, allowing a second run to score.
The error opened thefloodgates, and the Bulls werestuck in dangerous water.
Great teams are like sharks that smell blood in the water, coach Ken Eriksen said, You cant give them extra at-bats.
With only four offensive outs left to play with, Tennessee scored11 runs, six of them earned.
USF left six runners on base in the game, and lost 11-0.
Even with a disappointing loss, the Bulls had a chance to make it to Sundays final for a rematch against Tennessee.
The Bulls also faced off with North Carolina State on Saturday in a semifinal game of the four-team tournament.
The NC State bus carrying the softball team was struck by two vehicles on Thursday at theintersection of 50th Street andFletcher, but no injuries were sustained,according to a statement fromUniversity Police (UP).
But the Bulls just couldnt score on Saturday, and left nine runners on base against NC State.
Medinas error againstTennessee seemed to becontagious.
Junior shortstop Kourtney Salvarola, Medina and junior Dani Wayt allhad defensive errors in the NC State game and the Bulls lost 2-1.
Im really at a loss for words, Eriksen said after Saturdays losses. We had three or fourAll-Region caliber players makinguncharacteristic defensive errors.
USF had seven errors in five games played. Medina wasresponsible for three, andSalvarola for two. Wayt andfreshman catcher Lee Ann Spivey had one error each.
There were also defensiveopportunities by freshman Monica Santos and junior Ashli Goff that were misplayed, but not recorded as errors.
To be in position for thepostseason, we have to playflawless (defensive) softball,Eriksen said. These mistakes will take you out of ball games you have a chance to win. All weretrying to do is play catchand throw and we cant do that right now.
Eriksen said he had not seen any defensive struggles in last weeks practices and made it clear that this weeks practice will bedirected towards getting back to playing sound defense.
The Bulls won both preliminary games on Friday.
USF defeated North Carolina 1-0 after finally managing a run in the seventh inning when juniorshortstop Kourtney Salvarolas walk off single scored junior Ilaura Reeves.
Lindsey Richardson and Sara Nevins combined for11 strikeouts, two walks and four hits in theshutout win.
Tthe Bulls also defeated the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 5-2 thanks to Medina and Spivey each batting in two runs.
The Bulls defeated CoastalCarolina on Sunday once again in the tournament consolation game 5-1. Spivey batted in two more runs.
Sophomore center fielder Danna Devine was moved to the top of the batting order during the tournament after hitting seventh in the previous weekend.
Eriksens decision paid off, as she went nine for 16 at the plate in the tournament and scored three runs.
The Bulls will face SouthernIllinois, Louisiana-Lafayette, James Madison, UC Davis and Illinois State in Clearwater next weekend.