It was the one that got away.
South Florida's historic softball season ended Saturday morning with a 1-0 loss to Louisiana State in an elimination game at the Women's College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Bulls (50-14) went 0-2 in the program's first WCWS appearance.
Scoreless through five innings, the game was decided by a rare infield sacrifice fly. Tigers second baseman Allison Falcon hit a pop up that carried USF shortstop Kourtney Salvarola just into left field to make the catch. LSU's A.J. Andrews, a right fielder from Oldsmar, tagged up from third to score the game's only run.
"I was not told to go," Andrews said.
LSU head coach Beth Torina, coaching third base, told Andrews to tag, "but I guess that doesn't mean go," Andrews said. "But, really, I think, because (Salvarola) was facing backwards, my instinct is just to try it. It was a really close game. So, I knew that it would come down to something really close, like a close play."
Torina said it was the first time she could remember seeing someone score on a sacrifice fly to short stop.
"I've been in softball for a long time, seen a lot of things," Torina said. "I don't remember if I've ever seen that before, but it was a pretty amazing, gutsy play by A.J."
Andrews, a freshman from Countryside High School, played on a travel team with Bulls pitcher Sara Nevins, but was not recruited by South Florida before giving an early commitment to LSU.
"Recruiting is a two-way street," Erikson said. "I tell parents this: Not only do we go out and recruit the players, but the players go out and recruit the schools they want to go to. And I think A.J. ended up where she wanted to go. And that's important."
The winning run capped a kamikaze effort for Andrews, who was hit by a pitch to set up the sixth-inning score. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Simone Heyward and to third when Ashley Langoni hit a fly ball to center that bounced out of the glove of USF fielder Gina Kafalas.
But before her teammates sacrificed their at bats, Andrew sacrificed her body.
In the bottom of the third inning with two outs, she hit a grounder to third and collided with South Florida first baseman Stephanie Medina, who was fielding the throw. The collision laid out both players, but both were able to return to the dugout unassisted. Andrews returned to the game; Medina did not.
"It knocked the wind out of me and it hurt," Andrews said. "And afterwards it still hurt, but it didn't hurt bad enough for me not to play."
Nevins (31-8) took the loss, but gave up only two hits in 5 2/3 innings. She was pulled from the game for three at bats in a strategic switch in the sixth, while Andrews was on second base. Lindsey Richardson gave up the flies by Langoni and Falcon and hit one batter before Nevins returned to the mound.
Playing in the morning against USF, a team with one player hitting more than .300, with the prospect of an evening game against Arizona State, a team with six .300-plus hitters, Torina chose to save All-America pitcher Rachele Fico. Brittany Mack (16-12) started against the Bulls and not only threw a two-hit shutout, but also contributed to the biggest out of the game for LSU.
With no outs in the top of the third and USF's Ashli Goff on first base, Goff stole second and went to third on an overthrow by catcher Morgan Russell. LSU's throw to third also was wild, but Mack backed up the play and threw Goff out at home.
"Mack's a bulldog," Erikson said. "Look, the kid was an All-American last year. Maybe she was not so good with her stats, but I think she showed today that she's a pretty good pitcher."