GAINESVILLE - USF softball head coach Ken Eriksen calls it "feeding the Mouse." For opponents, it may be more like a Mouse "trap". Either way, senior third baseman Jessica Mouse has continued to dazzle with her glove during this 2012 season.
Mouse pitched in a pair of inning-ending gems late in the game Friday, securing a strong outing from Sara Nevins, who led the Bulls (46-11 overall) to a 1-0 win against UCF in the opening game of the NCAA Regional Tournament Friday.
"It's definitely a nice start," Mouse said of the team's opening win. "You want to stay in the winner's bracket as long as you can, because it's 90 degrees out there. The less innings we have to play, the fresher we'll be, especially when dealing with those conditions."
Mouse stole away a sure two-run double on a leaping grab in the sixth, then started an inning ending double play in the seventh as USF stranded seven Knights on the base-paths to advance to the winner's bracket in Gainesville.
USF manufactured its lone run in the third, without the aid of a base hit. Ashli Goff led off the with a strong plate appearance, working a nine-pitch walk to get the Bulls rolling. Gina Kafalas was hit by a pitch, and following a sacrifice bunt, UCF opted to walk Stephanie Medina to face Janine Richardson with the bases loaded and one out. Richardson did her job, lifting a high fly down the line in right field, deep enough to score Goff diving in from third on the sacrifice and give USF the lead without a hit.
"Whether you get on base via a hit, walk, hit by pitch, it doesn't matter. You're on base," Eriksen said. "As the leadoff hitter that inning, Ashli battled for us. That was a phenomenal plate appearance for us."
Defensively, the Bulls cruised through the first five innings, facing just one threat as Sara Nevins was masterful in the circle all game long, allowing just four infield singles.
Nevins pitched out of an early jam in the first, allowing a leadoff squib-hit to the left side, and intentionally walking the Knights' cleanup hitter with two outs. Runners advancing to second and third on steals, Nevins caught Tawny Swan looking for the final out, and cruised through the next four innings, striking out nine through five innings.
With one out in the sixth and a runner on first, Lindsey Richardson came on to spell Nevins. Richardson coaxed a short fly to right field against the right-hander, then intentionally walked UCF's cleanup hitter before she was lifted for Nevins to face the lefty, Swan. Left-handers were 0-7 with seven strikeouts to that point against the USF southpaw, but Nevins just missed on the payoff pitch against Swan to load the bases.
Knights' third baseman Hayley Barrows drove a sharp liner that had the left-field corner written all over it, but Bulls' third baseman Jessica Mouse turned in yet another beautiful play, leaping to grab the ball at the pinnacle of her jump, preserving USF's one-run lead.
"Honestly I feel like Superman took hold of me and pulled me up another inch," Mouse said. "Sara was doing a great job for us, so as a defender you just want to make those plays and help her out in those situations."
The Bulls will face the winner of tonight's FGCU/Florida game, tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. If USF wins, it would play Sunday at 1 p.m. Should the Bulls lose, they would play one more game Saturday at 6 p.m. for the right to move on to Sunday's championship.