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Softball Opens Season 1-2 Against A Monster Schedule, Faces #1 Tennessee This Weekend

Some teams always get the benefit of the doubt. Any team coached by Ken Eriksen is one of those teams.

#23 USF Softball opened the weekend hosting one of the toughest tournaments in the country, with #3 Florida, #4 Michigan, & getting votes Wisconsin joined victims Bethune-Cookman and Illinois State for a five-game round robin of fun and excitement.

And then the rains came. The weather cost the Bulls two games, including good-for-the-RPI Wisconsin and good-for-the-win-column Illinois State. Those are games the Bulls for sure wanted to play, and their depth of pitching puts multi-game tournaments in their favor.

The Bulls opened the tournament with a 10-3 loss to the Gators, as the Bulls combined to post one of the great pitching scorelines you'll ever see in any bat-and-base sport:

7 IP, 5 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 11 BB, 4 K, 5 hit batsmen. Where's the Jayson Stark of softball for that one?

It also led to the early leader for Ken Eriksen Quote of The Year:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>.<a href="">@USFSoftball</a> coach Ken Eriksen on 5 hit batters vs. Florida &quot;The positive aspect is we&#39;re working inside&quot; he said w/ a smile. He&#39;s the best</p>&mdash; Collin Sherwin (@USFCollin) <a href="">February 7, 2014</a></blockquote>

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The seven-run fourth for the Gators was brutal to watch (and not just because of the cold, windy weather), as I'm not sure a ball left the infield. Everything found a hole, every batter found a way on, and everything couldn't have gone worse.

The highlight though was a treat: a monster home run for freshman outfielder Ta'Coia Williams in her first collegiate at bat. It looked like it landed somewhere around Perkins on Fowler and 50th, and it was a legit "WHOA!" moment. Bulls and Team USA Head Coach Ken Eriksen wasn't afraid to heap on the praise:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Eriksen on freshman Ta’coia Williams, who HR’ed in 1st AB: “Best hitting freshman I’ve seen in a long time. Probably since Mo Triner.” Wow.</p>&mdash; Collin Sherwin (@USFCollin) <a href="">February 7, 2014</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Mo Triner’s name is all over every USF record basically. Can’t think of much higher praise he could give.</p>&mdash; Collin Sherwin (@USFCollin) <a href="">February 7, 2014</a></blockquote>

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The second game against Bethune-Cookman was a 9-0 five inning run rule win. Erica Nunn went all Wes Ferrell by pitching a three-hit shutout while striking out six, and hitting a home run too. Kourtney Salvarola finished the job with a walk-off grand slam in the 5th that sent a very tired and cold crowd home happy.

After Friday was a washout, the Bulls returned Saturday against Michigan for what turned out to be a heartbreaking 3-2 loss. Full disclosure: we left after the top of the 4th to go to men's basketball, but at that point Sara Nevins had another weird pitching line: 4 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 111 pitches (!!). She loaded the bases twice but got out of it with K's both time, causing us to rename this situation a "Nevins." Sara tends to pitch in and out of trouble at times, and her opening weekend was a case study. Her finishing line of 6.1 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 8 BB, 10 K was pretty good for facing a top five team, but the Bulls just couldn't find the extra run needed.

USF is back in action this weekend at home with another tournament, highlighted by the game against #1 Tennessee on Saturday at 4pm. Pittsburgh, Binghamton, Wright State, and Illinois will also be participating in the round robin event.