Sam Greiner's pitching was messy at times this afternoon, but she got out of jam after jam to record four and a third innings of shutout softball. In addition to hitting two batters, Greiner gave up five hits and a walk, but forced the Pirates to strike out three times and strand eight base runners before she left the game in the fifth inning. Karla Claudio then pitched one and a third innings, striking out two and giving up one hit. Erica Nunn finished off the sixth inning and started the seventh before Claudio returned to strike out the side. You can't ask for much better pitching than what the Bulls put together against ECU: eight strikeouts, six hits, two walks, and zero runs. Greiner improved her record to 9-5.
The USF offense was sluggish at first, with the Bulls' first run coming on a bases-loaded walk in the second inning. Despite several players reaching base, no one crossed the plate again until the sixth inning. That was when catcher Lee Ann Spivey smacked a grounder by ECU's shortstop and was later batted in by third baseman Veronica Gajownik's drive to left center field. In the seventh inning second baseman Monica Santos put the game away with a bases-loaded line drive to center field that scored three runs due to an ECU throwing error. Five runs were more than enough for a comfortable win and a boon to USF's confidence going into the semifinals. The Bulls improved to a 36-19 record and still have hope for making the NCAA Tournament.
The bracket is down to this:
Friday at 5:30, USF will face UCF, one of the best teams in the country. The Knights have 46 wins and a #15 ranking to their name, but USF did win one of three against them last weekend. This will be USF's chance at getting into the tournament; losing to UCF would end the season. Beating them would advance the Bulls to the championship game against Tulsa or Memphis. Greiner, Claudio and Nunn will all likely be in the circle again to face UCF with the fate of the entire season on the line.