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USF softball goes scoreless in first half of invitational

The Bulls recorded four hits and no runs when facing their two top 10 opponents across both games. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After winning two consecutive games to open its 28-game homestand, USF softball began its own invitational losing back-to-back games against No. 5 Clemson and No. 9 Tennessee without scoring one run.

The Bulls’ (4-9) defense had positive stretches at times, but it could not overcome its offensive shortcomings against the Tigers (13-0) and Volunteers (8-1). South Florida has been held scoreless in three of its last five games and four times overall this season.

Here is how the Bulls performed across both games:

USF softball failed to put an end to No. 5 Clemson’s winning streak on Thursday, losing in a 6-0 shutout.

After falling behind early in the first when Clemson’s redshirt junior utility Valerie Cagle hit a two-run homer, the Bulls stepped up their defense to halt Clemson’s momentum.

South Florida regrouped and held the Tigers scoreless for four consecutive innings, but its offense wasn’t able to create any scoring opportunities. The Bulls only had three hits across 23 at-bats and struck out six times.

Coach Ken Eriksen said USF needed to be more vigorous defensively when facing a strong hitting team like Clemson.

“I thought we did play well, however, we had three errors…we should have been a little bit more aggressive on a couple of plays in the outfield,” Eriksen said. “We also have to want to attack the ball defensively. In other words, when you have a close play, the base is to go in, catch the ball and fight for the ball.”

This defensive effort was sustainable for USF. The Tigers rank second in the nation in batting at .399 for the season and added four more runs during the final three innings, bringing an end to the Bulls’ chance at upsetting a top five team.

Despite the end result, Eriksen said he believes Thursday’s game could boost his team’s confidence against ranked opponents.

“Those young women in that dugout are gonna go ‘Guess what, we cannot just play on the same field, but we can compete on the same field,’” Eriksen said.

“If we just clean up a few things, you end up with a win instead of a moral victory.”

After coming up short to Clemson, the Bulls were unable to score a win on Friday against No. 9 Tennessee, losing 9-0. Although the score tells a different story, defensive performance was strong for a majority of the contest, as neither team could produce runs during the first four innings.

While there were close calls, South Florida was able to keep the Volunteers at bay due to strong fielding.

This quickly came to an end when Tennessee’s senior center fielder Kiki Milloy hit a three-RBI home run to right center field at the top of the fifth inning to give the Volunteers a 3-0 lead.

Although the Bulls would get out of the inning shortly after, the home run would set up a Volunteer onslaught.

Tennessee’s bats was too much for South Florida’s pitchers to handle in the top of the sixth inning. USF gave up six runs and seven hits as UT ran up the score 9-0 in a disastrous close to the game.

Following the game’s unfortunate ending, Eriksen was unavailable for comment.

The Bulls wrap up the USF Invitational on Saturday in a doubleheader against Michigan State at 2 p.m. and UIC at 7 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN+ and BullsUnlimited.

Graphics by Justin Seecharan