USF Bulls Beat: Salvarola’s power paces softball team
TAMPA - Sunday afternoon’s softball game was tied in the ninth inning. University of South Florida junior shortstop
Kourtney Salvarola swung and, well, was there ever any doubt?
Salvarola’s program-record third home run of the game — a walk-off shot — beat Rutgers 4-3. The biggest surprise for USF coach Ken Eriksen? Rutgers actually pitched to Salvarola.
“She was in such a groove,” Eriksen said. “The ball was as big as a balloon to her. She actually hit seven homers — four of them were foul — and the one time she made an out, it was to deep center, dead into the wind.
“These things don’t faze Kourtney. You’re never going to tell her emotional state. She just plays. Those are the type of players who wear ‘USA’ across their chest.”
Salvarola, who added two home runs and five RBIs in an 8-2 win at Villanova on Wednesday, is batting a team-leading .389 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs. Meanwhile, junior left-hander Sara Nevins had 10 strikeouts to boost her career total to 658. She had seven strikeouts in the series finale against Rutgers, breaking the record of Monica Triner, now a USF assistant coach.
These are positive signs for the Bulls (25-11), who have won 19 of their last 20. When USF stumbled to a 6-10 start, Eriksen said there was some doubt, but never any panic.
“I believe we have a team capable of doing some big things,’’ said Eriksen, whose 50-14 team made last season’s Women’s College World Series. “We played some teams early where we couldn’t make mistakes. We did and they capitalized.
“I think we finally started to relax. We really didn’t compete. We were waiting for things to happen. And that’s when this game will bite you in the butt. It was an awakening that you just can’t throw your gloves out on the field and expect to win. I think we’re getting into a groove.”
That’s especially true to Salvarola.
Orekhova shines The women’s basketball NCAA tournament run ended Monday night with an 82-78 overtime loss against No. 2-seeded California at Lubbock, Texas. It was an astounding comeback — USF (22-11) erased a 10-point deficit in the final 90 seconds, getting three free throws from junior forward Inga Orekhova with 0.7 seconds remaining in regulation — but the Golden Bears (30-3) had too much in the extra session.
USF coach Jose Fernandez praised his eight seniors, but he was encouraged by a solid cast that returns for next season. Fernandez was elated with Orekhova, who was nothing but clutch. In the two NCAA tournament games, Orekhova was 12-for-27 from the field, including 9-for-18 from 3-point range. She had 22 points against California and 20 against Texas Tech.
The Bulls also got plenty of respect from California coach Lindsay Gottlieb.
“They are a team that definitely feels like a top 25 team,’’ Gottlieb said. “I know they may not have gotten there in the polls, but they clearly belong.”
Bulls bits After a weekend sweep of Cincinnati, which featured Lelo Prado earning his 200th win with the Bulls, USF baseball (13-12, 3-0) is tied with Pittsburgh (15-6, 3-0) atop the Big East Conference standings. Second baseman Nik Alfonso made the Big East’s weekly honor roll by going 8-for-13. The Bulls jump back into Big East play today at Georgetown. … Junior golfer Richard James had a hole-in-one and finished tied for second (6-under) at the 36-hole Linger Longer Invitational at Reynolds Plantation in Georgia. USF was eighth in the 14-team field. … Willie Taggart’s football team is wrapping up its second week of spring drills. The spring game is Saturday, April 13 at 5 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.