USF's second day at the NCAA Softball regionals in Gainesville was tense and anti-climactic, but at all the wrong times.
The anticipated winners' bracket matchup between USF and Florida was decided early. The Gators pounded Sara Nevins, who is a boss, for 7 runs in a little over an inning, in an 11-1 laugher. The game ended after four and a half innings due to the 10-run rule.
Florida cleanup hitter Lauren Haeger did most of the damage. After USF lucked into a run in the top of the first, Haeger hit a three-run homer off Nevins in the bottom half of the inning, and a bases-clearing double in the second off relief pitcher Sam Greiner. Heager would later add a seventh RBI. The score was 11-1 after three innings, and USF never threatened to rally, with Kenshyra Jackson having the only USF hit in the game.
The loss meant USF had face Georgia Southern again. GSU beat Hampton in the losers' bracket game yesterday, earning the Eagles another game with the Bulls.
Like the opening game, runs were hard to come by. USF broke through in the second inning when Kourtney Salvarola -- hitting fifth in a rejiggered lineup -- singled, stole second, advanced to third on a fielder's choice, and scored on a wild pitch. Lindsey Richardson, once again the starting pitcher against Georgia Southern, pitched into the fourth inning before being relieved by Nevins.
In the sixth, Alexa Lewis tripled to lead off the inning. After a great diving catch by USF 1B Stephanie Medina, GSU's Shelby Morrill singled in Lewis, tying the game. Soon runners would be at second and third, putting the Bulls at serious risk of elimination. But Nevins got out of the jam, with a strikeout and a pop-up.
GSU threatened again in the 8th, when Nevins issued two talks and hit a batter. Richardson returned to the mound and got a key strikeout of Kaitlyn Johnson, then a groundout to escape the jam. But like Friday's game, USF's winning run would come from a stolen base and an unlikely hero.
Dani Wayt, who entered the game earlier as a defensive replacement, singled to start the inning. She advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third base, then scored when the catcher's throw went into left field. Richardson struck out the side in the bottom of the 9th to end it, 2-1.
USF now faces the daunting task of beating the Gators in two consecutive games. UF is now 29-3 at home on the season, and has beaten the Bulls 3-1, 9-1, and 11-1 in three meetings.
By the way, Louisville has been eliminated from their own regional. If USF can somehow win the regional, they could again host the super regional. It would be against UAB (2-0) or UCLA (2-1).