Two southpaws toed the rubber in a classic pitchers' duel Friday night, and it was University of South Florida sophomore pitcher Sara Nevins who came away the victor. Nevins struck out seven, allowing just six hits to lead the Bulls (8-1 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST) to a 1-0 shutout over Mississippi State. Nevins completed all seven innings, earning her second win of the season.
"Keeping the other team at zero always gives you a better opportunity to win," head coach Ken Eriksen joked. "I was very pleased with the pitching tonight. The key was we avoided giving up walks."
Nevins didn't allow a walk, and gave up just one free pass by way of a hit batter in her third start of the year against an SEC opponent.
"I just concentrate on the batter at the plate," Nevins said. "Either locate it in on their hands or on the corner away."
Hitting was scarce, but the Bulls manufactured a run with the use of just one single. In the top of the third, sophomore catcher Kaitlyn Santo led off with a walk, and sophomore pinch runner Ilaura Reeves stole second base. Senior outfielder Gina Kafalas laid down a near-perfect bunt in front of the plate, reaching first at the same time the ball bounced off her back. The ball squirted away, allowing Reeves to score from second base.
Mississippi State (7-3, 0-0 SEC) threatened to tie things up, loading the bases in the bottom of the inning, but Nevins pitched out of the jam, coaxing the final two outs to strand all three runners.
The Bulldogs mounted one final rally in the seventh, starting the inning with a pair of infield hits. With one out, senior third baseman Jessica Mouse dove to her left to snare a sharp liner, and fired to second, doubling off the runner to end the game.
"Honestly, I was just trying to get outs," Mouse said. "She kept going with the pitch and [that play] was exactly what I envisioned. She gave me a line drive and we got the double play."
USF will finish the NFCA Tournament Saturday with games against Boston University and Illinois State. The doubleheader begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater.