(Again, background music.)
It looks like we can declare the USF softball crisis of 2013 to be over. After a 6-10 start, the Bulls have now won 15 games in a row, including four straight at the USF-City of Clearwater Spring Invitational this past weekend. The big story was the pitching, which had some big issues earlier in the year, but has rebounded since then and did not allow a single run the entire weekend.
USF started off the weekend with two games in the USF Softball Stadium, winning their first game on Friday over Liberty, 5-0. The Bulls scored two in the first inning and that was all Lindsey Richardson would need. She allowed just two hits and struck out 13 in a complete-game shutout. Stephanie Medina hit a home run, while Lee Ann Spivey and Kourtney Salvarola each picked up two hits and an RBI.
The Bulls kept the pedal down with a 6-0 win over Iowa State in the nightcap. Salvarola hit another home run, while Kenshyra Jackson added a homer of her own. Sara Nevins dominated in the circle, throwing a two-hit shutout and striking out nine.
On Saturday, USF headed over to Clearwater to finish up their weekend and picked up right where they left off. The Bulls started off the day with a 5-0 shutout of LIU. Nevins rediscovered her boss mode with a one-hitter and nine strikeouts, while Ashli Goff had an RBI triple, Salvarola drove in a run, and Spivey added a double. It was more of the same in game two, as USF beat Rhode Island 3-0. Morgan Litchfield hit her first career home run to break a scoreless tie in the fifth, and Spivey hit a two-run double in the sixth to give the Bulls some breathing room. Richardson dominated again, allowing five hits and striking out six in another complete-game shutout.
The most impressive thing about this winning streak is the offense. USF isn't having to grind out low-scoring wins as much as they did last year. In fact, after hitting only 27 home runs the entire 2012 season, a total of 64 games, the Bulls already have 23 at the halfway mark of 2013. Not that the pitching has been bad. Ken Eriksen didn't have to make a single pitching change this weekend, and the team is working on a streak of 46 straight scoreless innings pitched. Nevins' stats are right on pace with last year (her 9-4 record is largely due to unearned runs) and Richardson is even better than before with an expanded role.
The Bulls will try to keep the streak with a "doubleheader" against Dartmouth and Cornell on Wednesday. USF then begins Big East play on Saturday with a three-game set against Rutgers.