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Bulls show room for improvement, swept by UCF

The Bulls offense struggled to produce much against the UCF over the weekend. Infielder Madison Epperson (pictured) had just one hit over the three games. ORACLE PHOTO/ ALEXANDRA URBAN

Conference play got off to a less-than-ideal start for USF softball over the weekend as the Bulls got swept in their first three-game series of the season to No. 24 UCF which included a 3-0 loss Sunday at the USF Softball Stadium.

It was the first time the Bulls (28-10, 0-3 AAC) matched up against the Knights (29-7, 3-0) since their rivals knocked them out of the AAC Tournament last year. The Knights seemingly still have USF’s number, as they won the first two games of the series in convincing fashion with 5-2 and 7-2 wins Friday and Saturday, respectively.

While his team dominated the nonconference slate, never losing back-to-back games, coach Ken Eriksen acknowledged that this weekend showed how much improvement is left for the Bulls.

“If you look back on a couple of plays in game one that could’ve turned the series around a little bit so the game is a game of inches and we have to take advantage and play as perfect as possible,” he said. “That’s what we need to do defensively and offensively in execution. 

“We have four days to try to rectify the things that we didn’t do so well and get ready for next weekend.”

Sunday was a bit of a bounceback for senior pitcher Georgina Corrick who struggled in her start on Friday, giving up a season-high five runs and eight hits over seven innings of work. 

In her second appearance of the series she kept a hot Knights offense relatively at-bay. After surrendering a first-inning homer, she kept UCF scoreless until the sixth inning when sophomore catcher Jada Cody hit one over the left-field fence for a two-run homer.

“We got beat a couple of times,” Corrick said. “But at the end of the day, it’s one of those things where I throw the ball hard and there’s going to be a couple hard-hit balls. I think three-hitting a team like that is very impressive and I’m really proud of this team and how we stuck together and competed against what is a very strong offensive team.”

Corrick finished the game, allowing three runs on three hits while striking out eight batters. She felt the Knights had a game plan against her.

“I think they probably did a lot of scouting of me,” she said. “I’ve thrown probably more innings than anyone else in the NCAA. So it’s one of those things where they’ve seen a lot of my pitches and they’re going to try and settle into what my patterns are, they’re going to try and settle into what my pitches were. And I think they did a pretty good job of guessing correctly a couple of times.

“It’s one of those things where you can’t be unhittable forever. The more you throw, the more information there is about you out there and they did a really good job with that information.”

As good as Corrick was on Sunday, she didn’t receive much help from the Bulls’ offense. She was outdueled by UCF senior pitcher Giana Mancha who gave up just one hit in a complete-game shutout. 

This followed a similar performance from Mancha in Game I in which she again completed the game and surrendered two runs.

“You can use the reasoning that we had a bad weekend offensively, but you got to give credit to their pitchers,” Eriksen said. “Their pitchers pounded the zone, made great pitches in great situations and against that type of team you need to be very aggressive early in the count and challenge early so you don’t have to give in late.

“I thought their pitching staff did a great job of forcing us into having to give in late.”

Next up for USF is its first true road trip of the season as they head to Greenville, North Carolina to take on ECU. As they continue their run through the conference, Corrick believes the Bulls had a lot of positives to take away from their first series loss.

“I think any loss or win is a really good learning experience,” she said. “I think UCF definitely did a lot of scouting on us and I think we need to take that understanding that information is power … At the end of the day, knowledge does so much for you. 

“I think we’re going to go out there and we’re gonna try and learn a little bit more and truly not make too many adjustments but have a couple of different mindsets when we go out to play.”

The Bulls and Pirates will begin their series in Greenville on April 1 at the Max R. Joyner Family Stadium. The series will run through April 3, times for the games have yet to be announced.