It took 10 innings, and the dreaded illegal pitch reared its ugly head again, but USF finished off Notre Dame 1-0 to win the single-elimination Big East Tournament, and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Sara Nevins, who is a boss, and Notre Dame's Big East Player of the Year Laura Winter traded zeros for nine innings. USF broke through in the tenth, on a throwing error, and singles by Monica Santos and Ashli Goff.
In the bottom of the 10th (Notre Dame batted as the home team), Goff added a nifty 9-3 putout from right field to keep the tying run off base.
The game looked to be over when Nevins got pinch-hitter Casey Africano to fly out to left, but third-base umpire John Stoodley had his hand up -- illegal pitch. Nevins would go on to walk Africano; it was the only walk of the entire game, for either team.
With the tying run on first, and Chloe Saganowich and Kelsey Thornton (both 2 for 3 in the game) due up, Ken Eriksen brought in Lindsey Richardson to close it out. Richardson struck out Saganowich to end it.
The NCAA Tournament field will be announced later tonight. USF was #43 in the RPI going into this week, though that will likely improve after wins over highly-rated Louisville and Notre Dame. Florida (#2 in the RPI) will definitely host a regional, and Florida State (#21) is likely to do so as well. With relatively few Florida teams in this year's field (only FGCU and North Florida look to have a shot), look for USF to be the #2 or #3 seed in one of those regionals.
Gousfbulls.com has a great highlights video here. The NCAA softball selection show will be on ESPNU at 10 PM Sunday night, or you can follow it at ncaa.org here.