TAMPA, FEB. 9, 2017 – Freshman Bethaney Keen started her collegiate career with a bang on Thursday night.
Keen (Bradenton) hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to lift No. 24 USF to a 5-4 walk-off win over Illinois State in the season opener. USF scored four runs in the final two innings of its wild, comeback win to begin the USF-Wilson DeMarini tournament at USF Softball Stadium.
Bulls fans got their first look at right-handed starter Kalen “JoJo” McGill, who gave up three unearned runs on six hits in four innings. The junior transfer from Gainesville fanned three batters after racking up 199 strikeouts the past two seasons for College of Central Florida and South Alabama.
Left-hander Hannah Parker (Altoona, Iowa) replaced McGill with no outs and a runner on first in the fifth and got some stellar defensive help. Playing left field, Wyckoff (Plant City) ended Illinois State’s chance of taking a 4-0 lead with a perfect throw home following a two-out single by Allison Spence. Parker, a junior transfer from Western Kentucky, struck out a batter and gave up an earned run on three hits in 1.2 innings of work.
USF got into the scoring business in the bottom half of the fifth with the bases loaded. Weber, the 2016 conference player of the year, battled through a full count and drew a two-out walk to put the Bulls on the board. Weber (Hegins, Pa.) set a career high with 39 RBIs last season on the way to NFCA Mideast All-Region First Team.
Illinois State extended its lead to 4-1 in the sixth and the Bulls responded with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Fung, a speedy junior catcher from Tampa, legged out a two-out infield single with the bases loaded. Donovan (Guilford, Conn.) followed with a run-scoring infield single, beating the throw with a head-first slide.
Lauren Evans (Land O’Lakes, Fla.) drew a one-out walk to put USF’s potential tying run on in the seventh. Keen was mobbed by her teammates at home plate after launching the game-winning homer over the wall in right-center field.
Freshman Bethany Keen on her game-winning, two-run homer:
“Each at-bat I had, I was trying to improve. From my first at-bat to the last one, each at-bat I did improve, hitting it harder and harder… I was seeing it well. I even told coach before that inning, I was like, ‘We got this.’ It was a very good team win.”
“She got to the plate and there was no doubt, she was on it. She had a very patient at-bat, waited for a great ahead-in-the-count pitch and took advantage of it.”
Head coach Ken Eriksen on his team’s mental toughness during the comeback victory:
“We might be exciting this year, holy smokes. I don’t think there was anybody in the dugout, in all honesty on the coaching staff, that didn’t think we had a chance. The way we swing the bat, we were making good approaches and we were hitting balls at people with the bases loaded.”
2 – USF initially powered its late rally by driving in two runs with two outs in the sixth.
3 – USF kept its impressive rally going with with three two-out RBIs.
.316 – USF put the pressure on by going 6-for-19 with runners on base, capped off by Keen’s game-winning, two-run homer.
- Keen’s two-run blast in the seventh inning marked the freshman’s first walk-off homer in her career, at any level.
- USF improved to 11-2 all-time against Illinois State. The Bulls have won the past four meetings by an 18-5 advantage.
- Sophomore Lindsey Devitt (Jacksonville) produced USF’s first hit of the season, lacing a single to right field to lead off the bottom half of the second inning.
The Bulls continue the USF-Wilson DeMarini tournament with a test against Delaware 7 p.m. Friday back at USF Softball Stadium.
Be sure to follow USF softball on social media (Twitter / Facebook / Instagram) and visit GoUSFBulls.com for the most up-to-date information. The USF softball program has been one of the most successful on campus, making 12 NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the Women’s College World Series in 2012. USF returns 15 players from the 2016 squad that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including American Athletic Conference Player of the Year,Juli Weber, first-team all-conference selectionLauren Evans, and second-team selectionsAstin DonovanandKristen Wyckoff.