Bulls go 1-2 to finish South Florida Showdown

Freshman infielder Kathy Garcia-Soto continued her streak of stellar play after hitting her first career home run in a walkoff upset over Texas on Friday night. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Coming off two consecutive walk off victories over Lehigh and No. 9 Texas, USF softball came into this past weekend poised to continue its impressive play. 

After splitting Saturday’s games over Marist and Iowa, the Bulls fell in their rematch with the Longhorns. 

USF 6, Marist 2

The Bulls (19-13) opened up their three game slate with a 6-2 victory over the Red Foxes (7-17), who have lost eight of their last nine games. Early offense and strong pitching from redshirt freshman Payton Dixon powered USF to its third straight win.

Dixon picked up her 12th win of the season in a seven strikeout performance, allowing only three hits in six innings pitched.

Meanwhile, the Bulls offense scored five runs in the first two frames, including doubles by senior utility player Vivian Ponn and freshman infielder Kathy Garcia-Soto.

Coach Ken Eriksen spoke highly of Dixon’s performance, who has led the bullpen in her first season.

“Payton pitched a great game, it’s been incredible watching her grow throughout this season,” Eriksen said. 

Her 12-4 record currently ranks 12th in DI in victories, and her 1.47 ERA ranks among the top in the conference. 

Eriksen said Dixon’s future is bright with the Bulls, as she has already seen many early successes. 

“I think (Dixon) has the potential to be the future of this program, I really believe that,” he said.

A late scare came in the seventh inning when Marist had bases loaded with only one out, but senior reliever Antoinette Hill closed the game with no further damage. 

Iowa 12, USF 4

Defensive struggles plagued the Bulls (19-14) as the Hawkeyes (18-10) dominated Saturday night’s matchup

After a double by Emily Hanlon brought in three runs in the second inning, USF jumped to a quick 4-0 lead. Iowa responded with 12 unanswered runs.

USF held a 4-2 lead before the game was suspended due to rain. After a nearly 90-minute delay, the game resumed in the top of the fourth inning. 

The delay proved to be costly for the Bulls as they would never be able to regain control of the game. 

Iowa has a strong showing offensively, scoring a combined eight runs in the next two innings. A triple by junior Iowa third baseman Grace Banes followed by a two run homer from junior outfielder Brylee Klosterman capped off a rough fifth inning for the Bulls.

Sophomore catcher Tristan Dolster put the game away with a three run homer in the sixth inning, giving the Hawkeyes a seven run lead.

Giving up 12 runs, the Bulls suffered their worst loss since being shutout 8-0 by Boston on Feb. 3. 

Texas 6, USF 1 

Longhorns junior pitcher Estelle Czech dominated the mound in a 6-1 loss for the Bulls. USF only managed two hits throughout the game, striking out five times in the loss. Czech pitched a no-hitter through six innings before freshman infielder Tieley Vaugn hit a solo homer to left field in the seventh inning. 

Texas freshman second baseman Leighann Goode racked up hits in all four of her plate appearances, with two of them being doubles. A single by sophomore first baseman Katie Cimusz scored two runs in the fifth inning.

Eriksen reflected on playing Texas twice and the impact that facing off against a blue chip program has on a young USF squad. 

“You’re teaching every single day. Our game is a tough game because the lesson is given during the test,” Eriksen said. 

This season, the Bulls have faced off against a slew of ranked opponents, including Michigan, Duke, Clemson and Tennessee. Eriksen said these games serve as a valuable teaching experience for a relatively young team. 

“These types of teams are giving you lessons. I feel good about what we’ve been doing so far,” Eriksen said. 

South Florida will face off against East Carolina on Feb. 24 to begin a three-game series. The Pirates (19-9) are undefeated on the road this season. 

“I think a 72-hour rest and recovery is in order. We’ll take the next few days off to regenerate the batters and get them ready for Friday,” Eriksen said.