TAMPA – Ace left-hander Sara Nevins has an extraordinary ability to remain focused no matter how difficult the situation might be and Thursday night was an amazing example.
The 2013 Big East Pitcher of the Year struck out nine in six shutout innings of the Bulls’ 3-0 win over Providence just two days after her father, Joe, suffered a heart attack.
Freshman Lee Ann Spivey went 2-for-3 and hit a go-ahead, two-run single in a three-run sixth inning that helped the No. 24 Bulls advance to the Big East semifinals for the first time since 2009. Second-seeded USF will face third-seeded Louisville 6:30 p.m. Friday after the Cardinals routed Syracuse, 12-3, earlier Thursday.
Nevins, a Pinellas Park native, got the start hours after Joe had bypass surgery and got a special request from her father while visiting him in the hospital earlier Thursday.
“He told me to make sure I pitched well and do it for him,” she said.
Nevins (23-7) scattered three hits and didn’t allow a Providence runner to reach third in USF’s fourth straight shutout against the Friars.
“She told me she wanted the ball tonight and that she was OK. I was really hesitant but I really have to give a lot of credit to her,” head coach Ken Eriksen said.
No USF runner had reached third base all game until the sixth inning when the Bulls finally broke through against Providence starter Corinne Clauss. D’Anna Devine got into scoring position with a one-out double and Stephanie Medina followed with a single that put runners on the corners.
Kenshyra Jackson hit into a fielder’s choice that loaded the bases and Spivey rocketed a single off first baseman Kristie Dederick’s glove that went into right field.
“All I was thinking was, ‘I do not want the season to end,’” Spivey said. “I already told Kenshyra that she needed to get on base and I was going to do whatever it took to hit the ball. I was going to try to put it in play and hopefully things would fall into place and they did.”
Nevins appreciated the strong support from her teammates on an emotional day that ended with a good story to share with her dad.
“I just put everything behind me and just worried about playing with my teammates and playing like I know how to play,” she said.