USF softball makes freak plays look effortless in four-win weekend

Junior Juli Weber’s home-run-robbing catch in the third inning of USF’s 8-2 loss to Texas State made ESPN’s Top 10 Plays segment Friday night — USF athletics’ third time in three years. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/JACOB HOAG

As soon as the neon green ball left the barrel of sophomore Taylor Webb’s bat, USF sophomore outfielder Juli Weber had already locked in her sights on the would-be home run.

That split-second reaction gave Weber just enough time to stick her glove over the wall at left-center field and rob Texas State (14-5) of a run, keeping the deficit at one. The Bulls lost the game 8-2, but millions watched the catch later on Friday night on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 Plays segment as the second-best play of the day.

“It was more about the timing, because I was already back there,” Weber said of the grab. “You just have to kind of go slow and use the fence. I just tried to jump as high as I could and it went in my glove.”

This wasn’t her last Top-10-caliber play of the night, either. With two outs in the third inning, Weber made a diving catch in center field to prevent a would-be extra-base hit to end the inning.

This was just a snapshot of a weekend-long highlight reel for USF softball (11-9), which earned four wins in five games both at home and in Clearwater.

The Bulls have had a knack for finding themselves in the right place at the right time as of late. Some may deem it a rare burst of athleticism, but for USF it has become automatic both in practice and on the field.

With two outs in the second inning of USF’s 3-2 win over with Central Michigan (4-8) on Sunday, freshman Sam Worrell left her post at third base to make a stretched-out, leaping grab on an infield pop-up to strand a runner at second base and awaken a crowd of 453 at the USF Softball Stadium.

An inning later with the game scoreless, sophomore Cassidy Boyle snatched a line drive out of the air from Central Michigan sophomore Lacy Tolfree that could’ve meant extra bases.

However, one of these plays surprised USF coach Ken Eriksen, who said he sees this level of play every day in practice. What was once a rarity has now become the expectation.

“Take a look at our defense,” Eriksen said. “They want the ball hit to them.”

On the offensive side, all five of the game’s runs from both sides came in the fourth inning with Central Michigan taking a 2-0 lead on a two-run home run off USF freshman Cheyenne Eggens, who improved to 5-0.

USF responded with a pinch-hit three-run shot from senior Monica Santos over the left-field wall one pitch after driving a foul ball nearly the same distance.

“Knowing that Momo (Santos) is a pretty good contact hitter and she gets the barrel to the ball really well, that was a great situation for her to come in,” Eriksen said. “I would’ve taken a single or a double, that would’ve been it, but the home run’s a bonus.”

The win over the Chippewas capped a four-win weekend that included wins over Purdue (12-7), College of Charleston (10-8) and Illinois (12-7) as well as the loss to Texas State.

USF hits the field again at 6:30 p.m. Monday when they take on Detroit in the USF Softball Stadium.