OKLAHOMA CITY - Ken Eriksen couldn't help but smile after watching the USF softball team's amazing season come to a close Saturday afternoon at a place far, far away from where it all started.
The Bulls' memorable Women's College World Series run ended with a 1-0 loss to LSU in an elimination game at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. LSU's A.J. Andrews tagged up from third on an infield pop out in the sixth inning and scored the lone run in a game that featured only four hits.
"How do you get sad about that game? It was a great game," Eriksen said.
Ace Sara Nevins shined like she has all season for USF, giving up two hits and the unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. LSU's Brittany Mack definitely held up her end of the bargain by tossing her 15th career shutout with eight strikeouts.
"You're in the final eight, you're going to see great pitching," Eriksen said. "You're going to see 0‑0 games, and that one break is going to happen."
For a while it appeared the Bulls were going to be on the receiving end of the key break of the game.
USF had base runners on in each of the first three innings and was inches away from taking the lead in a busy third. Ashli Goff led off with a walk, stole second and headed to third on a throwing error. Another throwing error on the play had her heading home ahead of the throw before Tigers catcher Morgan Russell blocked the plate to prevent the run.
"We were aggressive. Ashli got an aggressive base‑running deal," Eriksen said. "Their catcher made a great play at home plate."
Things were much different in the first three innings for Nevins, who faced one batter over the minimum with three of her six strikeouts. The only Tiger to get on base during that stretch was Ashley Applegate, who reached on a fielding error in the second.
LSU's first hit of the game was a two-out double in the fourth inning by Juliana Santos, but Nevins ended the threat by getting Allison Falcon to ground out to shortstop Kourtney Salvarola.
Nevins pitched all the way up to the bottom of the sixth when she exited the game with a runner on first and one out. LSU put runners on second and third when Ashley Langoni hit a deep fly ball to center off Lindsey Richardson and Janine Richardson almost made an incredible catch on the warning track until the ball popped out of her glove.
"It's a chess game and somebody's just going to king it. They got their break today and they kinged it," Eriksen said.
Lindsey Richardson hit Juliana Santos to load the bases and the Tigers got their run in the next at-bat. Falcon popped out to Salvarola near the edge of the dirt and the outifeld. The shortstop spun around and her throw to home was just a bit wide, allowing Andrews to score after tagging up at third.
"It's just so tough... You're trying to catch up with it, throwing it from 92 feet away, you're trying to catch a kid who's already going forward in momentum, and that's why they're there with the leadoff positions. They can run," Eriksen said.
USF got the potential tying run on first in the seventh inning when Goff drew her third walk of the game with two outs before the Bulls were shut out for the first time since May 10.
Eriksen had a smile on his face for most of the postgame press conference as he summarized a small portion of USF's massive amount of accomplishments this season. The Bulls went 50-14, rolled through NCAA Gainesville Regional opponents and took two straight from Hofstra in the Super Regionals to book the program's first trip to the WCWS.
"My team, wow, being the first team to get into a national championship venue, an event, anytime you're the first is a phenomenal accomplishment," Eriksen said. "For what this team did this year with all the adversities, injuries, all those type of things that went on, it's incredible."