Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: Bulls Clinch Regular Season Conference Softball Title

TAMPA – With an impressive 15 wins in conference play, the USF softball team clinched the 2016 American Athletic Conference regular season championship. The Bulls defeated instate rival UCF, 4-1, to even the series and claim the title.

The Bulls (43-12, 15-2) were able to clinch the title, even with UCF having four games left to play, due to the Knights not being able to catch the Bulls’ win record. UCF was rained out for two games at UConn, leaving them two games short of USF.

This is the first regular season conference title for the Bulls since head coach Ken Eriksen’s 2008 squad won the Big East. After being picked to finish fourth in the conference, the Bulls will be the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament in Tulsa, May 12-14, and have a first round bye.

“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, ” Eriksen said. “We had a lot of people give effort through the year, but we’ve had no superstars. Everyone talks about Spivey or Nunn, but if you take look at what has happened in the last 55 games and we’ve had contributions and at least 38 different opportunities.”

USF got off to an early start, plating two runs in the bottom of the first. The Bulls loaded the bases with one out on a pair of walks and a single. Erica Nunn drove in the first run of the game on a deep sacrifice fly, just missing a grand slam. On an attempted double steal, Astin Donovan scored from third as the UCF second basemen misplayed the throw from home.

In the fourth, Lee Ann Spivey’s 38th career home run gave the Bulls some extra breathing room as they went up 3-0. On a 0-1 count, Spivey sent her 14th long-ball of the season well over the right field wall.

In the top of the fifth, UCF got on the board with a solo home run from Jasmine Acevedo. The Bulls would respond with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning.

Amber Donovan led off with a pinch-hit walk and moved to second on a groundout. With her sister at the plate, Amber would come around to score on Astin’s RBI double to put the Bulls back at a three-run advantage.

Nunn picked up her 26th win of the season, throwing five innings of one-run ball. The senior gave up just five hits and struck out four. Cheyenne Eggens got the start, throwing 2.0 innings of no-hit ball.

“We wanted to make the best out of this year, and worked really hard in the weight room and in practice in the fall and we didn’t want to throw that away, ” Nunn said. “At the end of the day you just go in and get the job done, and that’s what’s important.”

Astin Donovan led the team offensively with a 2-for-2 outing that included a run, an RBI and a walk.