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Devine gets the breaks for Bulls

The first line of hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blows 1980 hit The Breaks brings applause in the USF softball stadium as DAnna Devine is up to bat.

A group of students sing along, Clap your hands, everybody, if you got what it takes, cause Im Kurtis Blow and I want you to know that these are the breaks.

The funky guitar riff that follows keeps Bulls fans dancing until Devine steps into the batters box. But the entertainment doesnt stop there.

The sophomore outfielder has been getting the best individual breaks recently as one of the few bright spots in a disappointing
6-8 start for USF softball.

In the last two weekends of play, USF coach Ken Eriksen placed Devine at the top of his batting order.

She has led the team in hitting ever since.

The lefty has 11 hits in her last 10 games, batting either first or second in the lineup. She raised her batting average to .324, which is second to junior shortstop
Kourtney Salvarola, a 2012 All-BIG EAST First-Team selection.

The top of the batting order is a natural fit for Devine.

Ive been a lead-off hitter practically my whole life, she said. So I do feel most comfortable there, lots of memories are coming back, but I always tell coach Im glad to bat wherever he needs me to.

The season didnt start so well for Devine, though.

The Morrisville, Pa. native struggled in her first four games, notching just one hit while batting in the bottom third of the Bulls order.

I definitely felt like I was letting my team down because I wasnt getting hits in crucial spots, Devine said.

Known as a slap hitter in her freshman season, Devine is keeping opponents on their toes with her power this season.

Last summer when I went home, coach told me, dont slap a ball, just hit it, Devine said. All I did was hit the ball.

The practice has paid off.

Her dual-threat attack as both a slap hitter and power hitter has been on display this year.

During a game in USFs second weekend of play, she slapped a pitch into the dirt so hard that it bounced over the shortstops head and left the defense in disarray as she sprinted to first base.

Her next at-bat looked like a replay of the first. When the scrambling shortstop finally picked up the ball to throw, she was safe at first base again.

Last Friday, against No. 12 ranked Louisiana-Lafayette, Devine blasted a line-drive over the right fielders head. When the ball made it back to the infield, she was standing at third base, dusting off her uniform.

Eriksen compared his new lead-off hitter to former Bull Gina Kafalas, who graduated in 2012.

Gina was a great slap hitter and on-base type of player, he said. But D can drive the ball and get an extra-base hit or a home run. We may have a chance to score more runs with her if our seven-through-nine hitters get on base for her.

Shes now two hits away from tying her total of 14 hits in 33 games last year as primarily a reserve player.

Shes also back to her natural fit on defense, as former Bull Janine Richardson graduated in 2012 and left a vacancy in center field. Devine said she has to prove
herself everyday because one of her teammates will take the spot if she doesnt.

She takes pride in the fact that she is versatile enough to have played every defensive position on the field in her softball career, but joked about the fact that she hasnt pitched yet.

Its so upsetting, she said.

The veteran coachs decision to put more trust in a player hes been a fan of since her eighth grade year makes sense. Eriksen saw Devine play for the first time when she was in Florida for a Rising Stars softball tournament six years ago as a guest player, and hes been following her career ever since.

She was a flat-out athlete, always smiling and having a great time, he said. But she played hard. She always played for the love of the game, going out there every day with a resiliency. Those are the type of kids I recruit.

Devine turned down scholarship offers from SEC softball powerhouses Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and LSU in order to join Eriksen at USF.

Every other coach I talked to, it felt like it was about business, she said. Im such a family person, and it really felt like I was going to be a part of a family at USF. I still thank him to this day.

She starred at Pennsbury High School in eastern Pennsylvania where she earned All-State honors and played travel softball for the Newtown Rock Gold 18 and under squad, based out of Newtown, Pa.

USF junior catcher Brittany Garvey and sophomore pitcher Sam Greiner are also alumni of The Rock, one of the most highly-regarded fast-pitch travel teams in the nation.

In 2010 she earned her biggest individual honor when she was invited to try out for the prestigious USA Softball Womens Junior National team as one of only five players invited from the East Coast and 42 players total.

On Wednesday night at 6 p.m., USF will have to contend with Gator standout freshman Kelsey Stewart, who has at least twice the production of any Bulls hitter in total hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, runs and stolen bases.

The Bulls beat the Gators two out of three times last season, including a win in the NCAA Regional Championship en route to their first ever College World Series appearance.

But with Stewart in the fold, the Gators have already defeated Oregon, Cal and Arizona, all ranked in the top 15 this season, while USF is fresh off four consecutive shutout losses and five losses in a row, the first streak of its kind since the 2002 season.

The Gators have scored 130 runs and allowed only 27. USF has scored 31.

As Devine steps into the batters box against the 16-1 Florida Gators and the music starts again, the audience will once again clap.

But the team could use some lucky breaks.

Were just not getting any good breaks right now, Eriksen said. Were hitting the ball hard but its being caught every time. Were good, theres no doubt about it.