TAMPA, FEB. 16, 2014 – Monica Santos drove in the game-winning run with a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to propel the Bulls to a 2-1 win over Illinois in the final game of the USF Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
“I was happy that we responded in the last three games in terms of energy and enthusiasm,” head coach Ken Eriksen said. “Illinois, they can play. Their pitcher is a heck of a pitcher and they swing the bat.”
Senior ace Sara Nevins pitched a complete game, allowing only one run on five hits while recording seven strikeouts to pick up her third straight victory.
USF (4-4) had a tough time solving Illinois’ freshman pitcher Brandi Needham early on as they failed to record a base runner through the first two innings. The Bulls were able to strike first, however, in the third on a bases loaded sacrifice fly by Kourtney Salvarola to score Dani Wayt. It was Salvarola’s team-leading sixth RBI of the season.
Neither team was able to generate much offense after that until the Fighting Illini knotted things up at one in the top of the sixth. With runners on first and second, junior Brittany Sanchez lined a single into left field to score Allie Bauch.
USF found itself in more trouble in the seventh after singles by Katie Repole and Jess Perkins put runners on the corners with two outs, but Nevins was able to force a groundout by Bauch to end the threat.
That set the stage for the walk-off win in the bottom half of the inning. Lee Ann Spivey got things started with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a throwing error. Nicollette Levine laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Spivey to third before Santos would eventually single through the right side of the infield to win the game for the Bulls.
“Thank goodness that Monica Santos made an adjustment and started to finally go with the pitch middle away,” Eriksen said. “She put the ball in the right place, she’s a heck of a hitter and it worked out for us.”
With the win USF improved to 4-4 on the season and finished the weekend with a 3-2 record. The Bulls return to action next weekend when they travel to Clearwater, Fla., for the NFCA Lead-Off Classic.