GAINESVILLE - Winning 37 of 39 games this season when the USF softball team scored first, getting off to a good start had to be a priority for the Bulls this weekend.
USF (47-11 overall) did just that in the second game of the Gainesville Regional Saturday, pounding out four runs in the second inning to jump in front of FGCU early, and send the Bulls into Championship Sunday with a 8-3 win over the Eagles.
The Bulls pounded out 12 hits from seven different players, scoring seven runs over three innings to record their highest run total since scoring 11 against Connecticut on April 15.
USF got started in the second when Janine Richardson was hit by the first pitch of the inning. Richardson advanced to third as Kourtney Salvarola reached on an error. Richardson scored on the very next play as Kenshyra Jackson drove her first of four hits into right field for a single. Jackson's 4-4 day set a new career-high for hits in a single game by the junior.
After the Bulls scored a second run on an error, Gina Kafalas laced a two-run triple, pulling it just inside the right field line and racing around the bases as the ball settled into the corner.
The Bulls piled on two more runs in the third as Stephanie Medina laced a leadoff double to center and came around to score on a Salvarola sacrifice fly. Jackson singled and later scored on a wild pitch, offering USF a 6-0 lead early - a lead which would hold.
Lindsey Richardson offered USF a veteran outing in the circle, pitching a composed 3.1 innings, allowing three hits and striking out seven. Richardson got big punch outs in the first and third innings, getting the Eagles to end both innings on swings and misses with runners in scoring position.
Sara Nevins came on in relief in the fourth, and picked up her 28th win, tossing 3.2 innings and striking out five.
With the win, USF earns a free pass to Sunday's championship game, as the other three teams battle it out for the chance to play the Bulls for a regional championship. USF will need to win just one game Sunday to advance to the Super Regionals next week. The Bulls' opponent will need to beat USF in back-to-back games to gain the Super Regional bid.