(As always, here is your background music.)
Hosting their 4 Team Tournament this weekend, the USF softball team got to work on Friday afternoon, beating NC State 1-0 in eight innings. Lindsey Richardson and Sara Nevins combined on the shutout of the Wolfpack, allowing just four hits while striking out 11. The offense struggled against the NC State pitching staff, but in the 8th inning, each team started their half of the inning with a runner on second base and USF capitalized on an RBI single by Kourtney Salvarola, driving in leadoff runner Ilaura Reeves. Morgan Litchfield also had two hits for the Bulls.
In the second game of the day, the Bulls knocked off Coastal Carolina 5-2. Sam Greiner started the game and pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing only one run on three hits. Freshman Erica Nunn pitched an inning and a third, but ran into some trouble in the fifth and departed after giving up a run and two hits. Lindsey Richardson came on and shut out the Chanticleers for the last 2 1/3 innings, with five strikeouts and only one hit against her. Meanwhile, the offense had a little easier time of it. Salvarola had two hits, two runs scored, and two stolen bases as she stayed hot to start the year. Stephanie Medina and Lee Ann Spivey each drove in two runs as the Bulls broke the game open and moved their record to 5-1.
Things didn't go so well on Saturday, though. Facing fourth-ranked Tennessee, the Bulls and Lady Volunteers were scoreless for five innings. But in the 6th inning, Tennessee went off for six runs after a critical two-out error by Medina, then piled on five more in the seventh for an 11-0 blowout. Nevins went 5 2/3 innings and only gave up three hits and one earned run. (Five of the Lady Vols' six runs in the 6th were unearned.) Sam Greiner mopped up and struggled in the 7th inning, allowing six hits and five runs. D'Anna Devine and Ashli Goff combined for four of USF's five hits.
It didn't get much better against NC State in the nightcap as the USF bats stayed silent in a 2-1 loss. Nunn, Richardson, and Nevins combined to allow just five hits and racked up eight strikeouts for the Bulls. But three errors by USF proved costly, as the eventual winning run was unearned. The offense continued to struggle. Devine was 2--for-4 in the game, while Kenshyra Jackson went 2-for-2 and scored USF's only run on an RBI groundout by Courtney Goff.
USF recovered on Sunday to again beat Coastal Carolina, this time by a 5-1 count. Richardson pitched a strong 5 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit and one run while striking out 10. Devine picked up two more hits and scored a run, while Spivey had a 2-for-3 afternoon with two runs batted in.
What we learned from the weekend
The big key from this weekend is that the pitching staff can be vulnerable against powerful teams like Tennessee. They don't break down often, but when it does happen, there will be even more pressure on the sputtering USF offense to score runs. This isn't a power-hitting team, which makes execution with runners on base even more pivotal. USF must manufacture runs consistently to contend against the best teams in the country.