USF softball collects historic milestones in Villanova sweep


The Bulls have won nine of their last 10 games. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF softball surpassed two historic milestones including its 1,500th program win in its doubleheader against Villanova on Monday night.

In the Bulls’ second game (16-6) coach Ken Eriksen earned his 1100th career win against the Wildcats (8-11). 

The team became the winningest program in the American Athletic Conference, and Eriksen became the seventh active head coach in NCAA softball to reach the milestone.

Eriksen said these milestones would not be possible without the current players and alumni who have made their way through the program throughout his tenure.

“These guys here just carry on a tradition of what we’re about: the standards and the standards are important,” Eriksen said. “And if you carry on standards, you have an opportunity to win.”

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Eriksen also said the common thread against the Wildcats (8-11) was quality pitching. USF had a collective ERA of 1.94 prior to Monday — that ranks 26th in the nation.

In game one, junior pitcher Belle Sarja threw a three-hit complete game, which was her fourth complete game of the year.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Payton Dixon had 10 strikeouts and only allowed two hits in seven innings of pitching work in game two.

Eriksen credited Sarja and Dixon for playing disciplined pitching against a Wildcat offense that produces a lot of runs. 

Villanova scored at least four runs in its last three matchups before Monday. USF only allowed three runs over the two games.

“For two collegiate pitchers to pitch a seven-inning ballgame against a team that swings the bat really well, I was really proud of what they did,” Eriksen said. 

The Bulls’ victory in the first game was set by an explosive second inning in which they scored five runs.

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Senior infielder Marissa Trivelpiece batted in the Bulls’ first run of the game. Trivelpiece would make her way around the bases and score on an RBI single from Alexa Galligani.

Later on in the hitting order, sophomore infielder Kathy Garcia-Soto began her at-bat with the bases loaded. She hit a three-RBI triple to give the Bulls a 5-0 lead.

USF’s 1501st win didn’t come as easy as it found itself down 1-0 at the bottom of the fourth inning in game two.

However, that changed when senior infielder Sam Mallinder began her at-bat. Her two-RBI single helped the Bulls retake the lead and never look back.

In the fifth inning, sophomore outfielder Olivia Elliot tripled to left center to bring in the Bulls’ third run.

Junior catcher Emma Humplik hit her first home run of the season in the sixth inning to cushion the team’s lead.

The Bulls will begin its conference schedule with a three game series against Charlotte on Friday. The 49ers (10-8) had back-to-back losses against Minnesota but stunned then No.14 Kentucky in its Queen City Classic.

“We’ll worry about Charlotte on Wednesday,” Eriksen said. “So that’s the mindset right now you got to have your rest and recovery.”

The Bulls start conference play on Friday with a three-game series against Charlotte at USF Softball Stadium. The first game starts at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+ and BullsUnlimited Radio.