TAMPA - The University of South Florida softball team earned its first comeback victory of the 2012 season in style.
The Bulls (5-1 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST) won in walk-off fashion Saturday night, topping Arkansas 7-6 with two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Down 6-5 and with just one strike left to give, the Bulls rattled off three consecutive hits, ending the back-and-forth battle when junior infielder Kenshyra Jackson drove a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for a double, scoring sophomore shortstop Kourtney Salvarola from second.
The Razorbacks (5-2, 0-0 SEC) rallied from a one-run deficit in the top of the seventh, giving USF just its second deficit of the season. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore first baseman Stephanie Medina singled up the middle to extend the inning. Salvarola followed with a double that caromed off the right-center wall, scoring junior pinch runner Stephanie Juergens to tie the game. Six pitches later, the stadium erupted as Jackson's game-winner bounced off the base of the fence.
"I was hoping [Jackson's hit] would stay fair, because I was just chugging," Salvarola said. "She hit it solid, it was a great ball."
Salvarola collected a pair of hits in the game, scoring twice and driving home two. But the big at bat came from Medina, whose veteran plate appearance and two-strike single sparked the rally.
"The maturing of Stephanie Medina is a crucial aspect of our deal," head coach Ken Eriksen said. "Last year she wouldn't have been able to do what she did, because she was wound so tight."
The Bulls trotted out a season-high four pitchers in the game, using Eriksen's matchup philosophy to strike out ten and allow just eight hits.
USF put itself on the scoreboard early, countering the Razorbacks' one-run first with one of its own. Salvarola drove home Medina with a two-out RBI single, erasing the Bulls' first deficit of the season.
The Bulls added three runs in the third and manufactured another two-out rally in the fourth. Freshman infielder Sydney Dinelli drove home senior outfielder Gina Kafalas on a pinch-hit RBI single, stretching the lead to 5-1, their largest of the game.
Medina finished with three hits, and the top five batters in the USF lineup each scored at least one run. Junior pitcher Lindsey Richardson picked up the win, improving to 3-0 this season.