USF opens conference play with sweep

USF has won 18 of its last 19 games, with its lone loss coming against No. 6 Florida. ORACLE PHOTO/THOMAS PRETTYMAN

USF (25-13, 3-0) swept UConn (13-19, 0-3) in its opening series of conference play.

Rounding out the Bulls’ dominant weekend was senior Astin Donovan, who hit a walk-off grand slam to give USF a 9-0 mercy-rule victory in the fifth inning Sunday at USF Softball Stadium.

“It feels like hard work paying off,” Donovan said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit in the beginning of the year, so I was just looking for solid contact and I got it.”

The grand slam was Donovan’s only hit of the game. The rest of her weekend was hit-or-miss — on Friday night she went 0-3 at the plate, but hit a perfect 3-3 on Saturday. 

Donovan’s currently batting .355 and leads the Bulls with 39 hits.

“She’s (Donovan) seeing the ball really, really well,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “She’s very mature, that’s what seniors do. She played well all weekend. That’s what you want out of your seniors and I think we are getting some pretty good leadership out of that group right now.”

The Bulls offense started off strong when senior Lauren Evans hit a leadoff home run to open the series. The rest of the offense followed suit for the rest of the weekend with an 8-0 and 8-2 victories on Friday and Saturday. 

Shining in Saturday’s win was sophomore Brooke Hartman. Hartman recorded 4 RBI, totaling 20 for the season. She is currently batting .329 with five home runs. 

From the mound, freshman Georgina Corrick dominated in the two games she pitched. 

“She’s (Corrick) got a good mix,” assistant coach Jessica Moore said. “I think she kept them uncomfortable. They couldn’t sit one way or another, and she just executed.”

Corrick threw a one-hit shutout Friday and allowed three hits in USF’s win on Sunday. In her last 15 innings pitched, she has allowed just four hits. Corrick is now 8-4 on the season with a 1.36 ERA. She has held opposing batters to just a .192 average.

After the opening weekend of conference play, USF and UCF (21-12, 3-0) are the only unbeaten teams in the American. The Bulls will look to build off their perfect performance against UConn as they take on Memphis (23-8, 2-1) for an away series starting Thursday.

“UConn is a tough team with good pitching,” Eriksen said. “We have to continue doing what we’re doing, stay the course and keep your posture and don’t get crazy. Don’t worry about what the pitcher is doing, worry about you. If we can do that, then we can adapt to a lot of different teams.”