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Bulls fall short of upset

Sophomore Kristen Wyckoff scored six runs off five hits and three RBIs as USF went 3-2 in its opening weekend.

USF held a two-run lead heading into the seventh inning Sunday against the University of Florida, the defending National Champions. 

With no outs and a runner on first, USF coach Ken Eriksen made the switch from senior pitcher Karla Claudio to junior Erica Nunn, who hadn’t given up a single hit this season.

The Bulls upset bid was cut short with a no-out two run home run from No. 1 Florida’s Taylore Fuller to tie the game at four.  USF would end up allowing eight runs in the seventh, losing the game 10-5 and bringing the weekend to a disheartening close.

“I saw a lot of fireworks going on and we were throwing gasoline on the fire,” Eriksen said following the loss. “The crazy thing was, the game shaped up nicely for us. The plan for (Greiner) to go two, maybe three (innings), then have Claudio come in for the middle innings and then Nunn come get the save … It just didn’t work out.”

After letting Florida get out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning, USF stormed back with a four-run inning.

Astin Donovan, who reached base off an error, advanced to third after sophomore Kristen Wyckoff punched a hit through a gap near second base; consecutive walks then sent Donovan jogging home to tie the game at one.

Following an error by Fuller at third base — scoring Wyckoff and a two RBI single by senior third baseman Veronica Gajownik — the Bulls found themselves up 4-1.

“We made some pretty good strides,” Eriksen said. “If you would’ve asked me last week what I thought of the team, I wouldn’t have known. Right now I can tell you they’re fighters.”

Florida would retaliate with a one-run homer over the right field wall, cutting the lead to two, where it would stand until Florida’s barrage of runs in the top of the seventh.

Down six runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Wyckoff was able to push across one final run, but the deficit was too great to overcome.

“How many walks? Eight. Hit by pitches? Five,” Eriksen said. “We basically gave them (16) extra baserunners tonight. You can’t beat anybody, let alone the best (college) team in the world.”

Not to be overshadowed by Sunday’s loss, Nunn’s highlight of the weekend was her first career no-hitter in Friday night’s 7-0 win over Illinois State.

Nunn helped pitch a combined no-hitter with former pitcher Sara Nevins in February of last year, but had not achieved the feat on her own until Friday. 

“It was awesome,” Nunn said following the game. “I really didn’t think about it until the last inning and that’s when the butterflies kicked it, but yeah it was great.”

Nunn didn’t allow a hit through 9 and 1/3 innings until Sunday and finished the tournament with only one allowed.

The Bulls showed they could overcome adversity from day one of the USF Softball Classic, which began Thursday and ended Sunday.

Down 3-0 to Hampton on Thursday, the Bulls strung together six-consecutive runs on their way to a 7-5 victory.  Down 3-0 again on Saturday, this time to No. 8 Michigan, senior D’Anna Devine stepped up with two hits and her first RBI of the season.

After tying the game at three, the Bulls would not be able to hold on, losing 4-3.

“I thought all day we did a pretty good job with our approaches at the plate,” Eriksen said. “I thought we made some adjustments well from the Michigan game on.”

USF would win their second game of the Saturday double header by mercy rule, 9-1 in the fifth inning. USF was led by a crop of freshmen, making an immediate impact for the Bulls.

“You go up and down the line, that’s a pretty good class, right there and I hope they realize that,” Eriksen said following the Bulls win over Jacksonville. “They provide a lot of energy for us right now.”

Freshmen Mia Fung and Donovan both recorded their first career RBIs in a game against Jacksonville that saw six freshmen — four with RBIs or runs.

“Definitely some jitters,” Donovan said regarding her first tournament. “But we’ve all worked so hard to get here, so (coach) giving us (freshmen) the opportunity right away in the beginning of the season to see what we can do is a huge compliment.”