#18 USF Softball claimed their first regular season conference championship since 2008 with a 4-1 win over C. Florida on Saturday at the USF Softball Stadium in Tampa.
It was the Bulls first league trophy since the 2013 Big East Tournament, and their first regular season crown since finishing first during the 2008 Big East regular season.
The championship caps a remarkable turnaround for a team that started the season 2-7, including blowout losses to the Top 3 teams in America. The Bulls are an astounding 41-5 since, and will fight to host an NCAA Regional via tomorrow's rubber game vs. the Knights and the AAC Tournament in Tulsa.
"To win it like we did this year, to be picked fourth and to come in with a non-descript pitching staff wondering who was going to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and who was going to step up and our starting lineup changed exponentially the first two weeks of the year," said USF coach Ken Eriksen. "We had a lot of people give effort through the year, but we've had no superstars. Everyone talks about (Lee Ann) Spivey or (Erica) Nunn, but if you take look at what has happened in the last 55 games, we've had contributions and at least 38 different opportunities."
"It's a good team effort, and that's what you have to do. We're not a powerful stellar team that is just going to blow everyone out of the water, we're going to grind and that's what we've done."
The thoughts of the winners weren't far from their teammate Meredith Bissette, currently in Boston for treatment while battling chordoma cancer.
"She has been our rock. She just stays positive, and she was the most positive person in the dugout when she was here," said senior pitcher Erica Nunn, who notched her 26th win on the season. "I think we fight for her every day, and we want her to be as happy for us as we are for her."
Nunn has conceded just four runs in her last 48 innings in AAC play, and lowered her season ERA to 1.57 through her five innings of relief. Sophomore right fielder Astin Donovan lead the Bulls offensively, going 2 for 2 with a double, a run scored and an RBI.
Eriksen also talked about the Bulls former athletic director Lee Roy Selmon, for whom he still wears a #63 on the side of his cap during games. "He's the reason I'm still here. Every day I try and be like him. He was a great guy and was a great friend, and he kept me here during the stuff that was tumultuous, first guy to call me when things were going bad, and the first guy to be there with that big hand of his enveloping my arm on a hand shake."
"When he hugged you, it was the greatest feeling in the world. His number will be on my hat for as long as I'm involved in the game."
The Bulls will face the Knights one more time finish their championship regular season at 5 p.m. tomorrow he Knights, who are locked second-place team in the AAC Tournament.