After a marathon Friday night at the NCAA Super Regionals, the University of South Florida softball team is one game away from elimination.
The Bulls dropped a heartbreaking, 2-1, decision in 11 innings against the Hofstra Pride before a school-record crowd of 1,561 at the USF Softball Stadium.
Hofstra (42-13) can wrap up the best-of-three series by winning Game 2 today at 2:30. But if USF (48-12) sweeps the Pride today – thus forcing an if-necessary Game 3 at 5 – the Bulls advance to next week's Women's College World Series at Oklahoma City.
The Pride scored the winning run on a one-out RBI single by ninth-place hitter Michelle Lavagnino – just over the head of USF second baseman Alexis Nowell – that drove in D.J. Slugh from third base.
Hofstra junior right-hander Olivia Galati worked all 11 innings (130 pitches) and won her 32nd straight start, coming within one victory of an NCAA record that was established in 1982. Galati (34-5), the national leader in ERA (0.90), allowed just four hits. She walked one and struck out five.
Meanwhile, USF sophomore left-hander Sara Nevins (29-6) took the loss. She worked 7 1/3 innings, throwing 134 pitches, and had a season-high six walks along with nine strikeouts.
Nevins started and allowed Hofstra's initial run, a first-inning RBI single by Tessa Ziemba. Nevins allowed a single and walk to start the third inning, then was lifted for right-hander Lindsey Richardson.
Richardson was magnificent.
She got out of the third inning, en route to retiring 10 straight Hofstra batters, then Nevins re-entered in the sixth.
Nevins struck out Tori Rocha with a runner in scoring position to end the sixth and also escaped the seventh, when the Pride had two runners in scoring position.
But Nevins couldn't avoid damage in the 11th. Slugh led off with a single, then was moved to second after Nevins was called for her fifth illegal pitch of the game. A bunt moved Slugh to third. Following a walk to Rocha, Lavagnino delivered her game-winning hit on a 2-and-2 pitch from Nevins.
USF managed just four hits in 11 innings, including two in the third, when the Bulls scored their only run. Nowell led off with a single and Courtney Goff entered as the pinch-runner. Ashli Goff followed with another single, then Gina Kafalas bunted both runners over.
Jessica Mouse got the RBI on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt. Galati fielded it and almost came home, but hesitated, then threw to first for the certain out.
The Bulls didn't get another hit until Ashli Goff's one-out single in the 10th. In fact, after scoring its only run in the third, USF had only five base-runners the remainder of the game and none reached third base.