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USF softball opens season with two shutout victories

Redshirt senior Jordyn Kadlub is pictured during an at-bat against Illinois State. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF softball opened its season with two victories on Thursday evening as a part of its six-game invitational.

The matchups ended in two different fashions, with a gritty 1-0 victory over Illinois State and USF dominating Bethune Cookman 10-0 in the following game. 

During both matchups, many players saw their first glimpse of action in a Bulls uniform.

Freshmen pitchers Julia Apostolakos and Alex Wright tossed the 34th no-hitter in program history against Bethune-Cookman. It’s the first time in USF softball history that a no-hitter was recorded in a collegiate debut.

Related: USF softball has one thing on its mind — returning to NCAA Regionals 

Bulls coach Ken Eriksen said their young players’ production was largely due to the environment set by veteran leaders such as redshirt senior outfielder Jordyn Kadlub and senior utility Marissa Trivelpiece. 

“They created a great environment for them to feel comfortable,” he said. “So when they can feel comfortable, you can see productivity on the ball field.”

Game one vs Illinois State, Bulls win 1-0

In the first matchup, USF beat Illinois State 1-0 with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning. 

With an out and a runner on third base, Trivelpiece made a hit to left field. It gave sophomore outfielder Olivia Elliot enough time to sprint to home base and secure the victory.

Despite only racking up a few hits, the Bulls never struck out once during the contest. The matchup was defense-oriented. 

Both teams combined for three hits in 44 at-bats through the first seven innings.  

Eriksen particularly credited his infield for making timely double plays. Alanah Rivera and Tieley Vaughn had two infield assists each.

“If you don’t have your best players doing that kind of stuff, what does it say?” Eriksen said. “So that in itself is enthusiastic play for us.”

Related: USF’s six softball players to look out for in the 2024 season 

Eriksen also said his pitching put on strong performances. Redshirt sophomore Payton Dixon struck out five batters and allowed two hits in five innings of action.

“I thought by and large they battled in situations and made good pitches and situations,” Eriksen said, “I feel pretty good after tonight.”

Game two vs Bethune-Cookman, Bulls win 10-0

While runs against ISU were hard to come by, the Bulls converted on their at-bats against Bethune-Cookman. USF run-ruled the Wildcats 10-0 in its second matchup of the day.

The Bulls had eight players that scored a run. They got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning, but they broke the game open in the third.

USF scored six runs during the frame en route to run-ruling BCU in five innings.

Eriksen said that he was proud of his team for adjusting their hitting from the first game.

“For them to start straightening things out and not getting so much arc on the ball, hit the ball on the ground and make things happen…It was really cool to see in the second game,” he said.

Wright took the mound in the fifth inning. She struck out two hitters. 

Apostolakos started the game on the mound for the Bulls and faced 14 batters. 

“It’s a pretty special moment just to come in here as a freshman and live out your dream and start my first college career game,” Apostolakos said. “But I couldn’t have done it without my defense.” 

The Bulls play Michigan on Friday. The Wolverines are one of the tougher matchups that USF will face throughout the invitational. 

“You’re gonna see great crowds and a lot of energy, and it’d be fun to watch the young team right here and go against them,” Eriksen said.

The Bulls will continue the USF-Rawlings Invitational on Friday when they face Michigan. The game is set to begin at 3 p.m. It will be broadcast on Bulls Unlimited Radio and ESPN+