USF goes 4-1 in NFCA Lead-Off Classic in Clearwater
The USF softball team juggled through weather-induced schedule changes in Clearwater on Friday, ending the weekend with a 4-1 record at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex.
The Bulls (8-5) started their third weekend against Illinois State on Friday, the first of five opponents and the team USF coach Ken Eriksen said he was most concerned with.
USF owned a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning with left-hander Erica Nunn in the circle when heavy rain postponed the game and interrupted the sophomore’s no hitter of eight strikeouts in four innings.
When play resumed Saturday, senior Sara Nevins took over and held the Redbirds scoreless and hitless, completing a combined no-hitter with Nunn in USF’s 5-0 victory. Three of USF’s runs came off the bat of freshman outfielder Ta’coia Williams, who hit her second career homer, a three-run shot, in the fifth inning.
Nevins returned to the circle against James Madison and added another six scoreless innings, as the Bulls won 3-0 with an RBI double from Williams, a solo homer from sophomore catcher Lee Ann Spivey and a run from senior outfielder Courtney Goff after a triple.
USF arguably faced its toughest opponent of the weekend, No. 22 Louisiana Lafayette, in the nightcap on Saturday.
For the first time this year, Nunn was roughed up by an opponent as she gave up a run and loaded the bases in the first inning. Eriksen inserted junior right-hander Sam Greiner, and the Ragin’ Cajuns added four more runs to take the early 5-0 lead.
With some help from Cajun pitching, which walked in two USF runs in the second inning with the bases jammed, the Bulls put a dent in the margin and left the second down 5-2. In the third, USF senior first baseman Stephanie Medina hit a solo homer, her first of the year, to make it 5-3.
Greiner escaped a base-loaded in the Cajuns’ half of the fourth before Medina struck again in the Bulls’ half with an RBI single to make it 5-4. The Bulls tied the game with a run scored on a wild pitch.
In the seventh, a solo shot from junior Veronica Gajownik gave the Bulls a 6-5 lead, then Williams hit her second home run of the day, a two-run shot to take an 8-5 lead.
Lafayette couldn’t make anything happen in the seventh and USF ended the day 3-0.
USF faced Hofstra on Sunday, rescheduled from Friday night.
Similar to the Lafayette game, Nunn loaded the bases in the first and a run scored on a hit-by-pitch, followed by two more on a Hofstra single, which put USF down
3-0. The Bulls continued to hurt themselves in the third when Nunn and Greiner combined to walk the bases full again.
The self-inflicted deficit continued when Hofstra added a run each on two singles and another run on a USF error, to make it 6-0. USF had a chance to spark a comeback in the sixth inning with bases loaded, but the Bulls weren’t as lucky as the previous evening and lost 7-1 snapping a three-game win streak.
To finish off the weekend, USF played the College of Charleston, and Gajownik made her presence felt once again with an RBI double to give USF a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
In the Bulls’ half of the fifth, up 3-2, USF tacked on three more runs with two-RBI triples by Medina, who then scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-2.
That 6-2 score would be the final, giving Nevins her fifth straight win after a rocky start to the season.
The Bulls faired much better than last season at the same tournament against three of the same schools, when they went 0-5 and held a 6-8 mark after three weeks.
Three of the Bulls’ five losses in 2014 have come from teams ranked in the top five, but the Bulls got their first win over a top 25 team this season after facing Lafayette.