It was hard to decipher which team had the crowd advantage in Sunday’s matchup between USF softball and the top-ranked Florida Gators in the USF-Wilson Demarini Tournament. Masses of fans – both green and blue – permeated every part of the USF Softball Complex, even lining up along the outfield fence hoping to catch a glimpse.
USF was stymied by the Gators 11-1 in five innings and fell to a 1-4 record in their opening weekend.
Dominant wins have become a way of life for the reigning national champion Gators (5-0), but after another lopsided defeat for USF, it’s back to work for the Bulls.
“We didn’t compete,” Eriksen said of his team’s effort. “We didn’t compete all weekend long, I’ll tell you that right now.”
The Bulls’ loss to the Gators put a stamp on a grueling weekend, which featured two top-five teams and two more opponents sitting right outside the top 25.
USF found itself in a hole early giving up six runs in the first three innings to the rowdy reptiles. A two-out RBI single by Janell Wheaton gave the Gators their initial lead in the first inning before USF senior pitcher Erica Nunn plated two more with a bases-loaded walk and a hit-by-pitch.
“They’re really good at taking advantage of teams that don’t get aggressive against them,” Eriksen said. “You have to be able to attack a team and not give them freebies.
“With a powerful lineup like that, you can’t give them extras, you can’t extend the inning.”
USF was able to break Florida’s three-game opponent scoreless streak in the third inning when junior outfielder Juli Weber drove in freshman Lindsey Devitt who reached on a walk. That was USF’s lone hit and run in the game.
“The kid Barnhill has a wild streak, she always has,” Eriksen said of Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill. “You have to wait it out and lay off her junk. She struck two or three of us out in the first inning on pitches that were out of the zone.
“Our girls made a great adjustment laying off the high stuff. That showed me some glimpses of some really good stuff, you know, some maturity.”
Prior to that run, Florida had outscored its opponents 33-0, including an 8-0 win over No. 2 Michigan – USF lost 11-2 to the Wolverines (4-1) on Saturday.
The Gators added insurance runs in the fourth and fifth innings, putting USF away with little resistance.
After three straight losses to start the season, USF’s only win of the weekend came in a 2-1 comeback over Illinois State (1-4) on Saturday.
After falling behind 1-0 off an RBI single by the Redbirds’ Allison Spence, USF sophomore first baseman Lauren Evans sent a shot over the left-field wall to score two and give USF their first win of the season.
Weber provided most of USF’s offense, going 5-for-14 with three RBIs in five games. Nunn (0-2) started two games, striking out 11 and giving up 10 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings.
USF will make the short drive to Clearwater next weekend for the Michele Smith Invitational. The tournament kicks off with games against Fordham and No. 4 Auburn on Friday beginning at 3:45 p.m.