USF Edges Illini, 2-1, in Walk-Off Fashion to End Weekend

Freshman Brandi Needham allowed just one earned run on five hits to the 2013 Big Ten Tournament Champions.
Freshman Brandi Needham allowed just one earned run on five hits to the 2013 Big Ten Tournament Champions.

Feb. 16, 2014

Box Score

Tampa, Fla. – In a true pitcher’s duel, it was the host USF Bulls who would finally get the upper hand, as a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh lifted the University of South Florida past the University of Illinois, 2-1, in the final game of the USF Tournament. The Bulls, who were ranked in both preseason polls and dropped just outside the top 25 this week, evened their season mark to 4-4, while Illinois finishes the second week of play at 8-2 on the year.

Freshman Brandi Needham looked sharp in the circle, allowing just five hits  a walk over six-and-two-thirds innings, and giving up just one earned run with two strikeouts, but an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh led to her first loss of the year, as she falls to 5-1.

Senior hurler Sara Nevins (3-2), an All-American and USA Softball National Player of the Year finalist the past two seasons, as well as a member of the 2013 USA Softball Women’s National Team, went the distance for the Bulls, allowing one earned run on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts to capture her third victory of the season.

Sophomore leadoff batter Allie Bauch went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run, and Brittany Sanchez drove in the tying run on a two-out single in the sixth inning. Jenna Mychko, Katie Repole and Jess Perkins all also singled off the hard-throwing lefty.

The Bulls also scattered their hits among five different batters, as Lee Spivey singled and scored the game-winning run, driven in by Monica Santos, who was 1-for-1. Kourtney Salvarola drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly and Stephanie Medina doubled to start the fourth.

"Nevins pitched her game and put a stop to any offensive momentum we had pretty quick, so first hats off to her,” said Head Coach Terri Sullivan.  “I thought Bee (Brandi) made it a pitchers duel, however, and am impressed with what she brought to a big Sunday game. She and our entire team will be in a lot more of those Sunday matchups, and we need to be at our best and bring more to the field.

“We missed on some routine plays today, and we will clean that up. Chez gave us another big time clutch at-bat to tie it up late, and we were in a position to grab the lead in the seventh.”

Both pitchers threw a pair of perfect innings to start off the game, but with one out in the top of the third, Ruby Rivera represented the first base runner of the game, as she hit a chopper off Nevins’ glove, who then rushed the throw allowing her to reach safely. Rivera registered her first career stolen base to get into scoring position with two outs for Bauch, who came through with a single to left, but Ta’coia Williams fired home to catch Rivera at the plate for the final out of the inning, saving a run.

A walk and a pair of infield singles loaded the bases for USF with one out in the bottom of the third, and Salvarola drove in the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly to right field.

Bauch drew a one-out walk to kick off the sixth inning, and after stealing second, Alex Booker got on base with another base on balls. Sanchez then came through with a two-out RBI single to left field, driving home Bauch to tie the score at one.

Repole singled to left to lead off the top of the seventh, and a two-out single by Perkins put runners on the corners, but Bauch was unable to come up with her second hit of the day, as the Illini stranded a pair on base to head to the bottom of the seventh with the score still tied.

Spivey led off the bottom of the seventh with a hit to shortstop; she beat the throw for an infield single, but the ball got away from Perez and into the dugout, giving Spivey a free pass to second. Nicolette Levine laid down a sacrifice bunt to put the go-ahead run on third with one out. Needham got Veronica Gajownik to ground out for the second out of the inning, but Santos came through in the clutch with a two-out single to right to drive home Spivey and give USF a 2-1 walk-off victory.

“We are growing and never afraid to get back to work,” said Sullivan, “and that's what we will do this week. After facing two of the game’s best pitchers, we learned a lot, and that will get us to where we want to be."

Next Up: The Fighting Illini head to Arlington, Texas, next weekend for the UTA Hiton Invitational on Feb. 21-23. Illinois opens play against UMKC at Noon CT on Friday, Feb. 21, and will also face Texas Tech, Creighton and UT Arlington over the weekend.