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Video: Eriksen talks after Bulls' loss to Oklahoma

Here's some video from Thursday afternoon after USF's 5-1 loss to Oklahoma on the opening day of the College World Series in Oklahoma City -- here's Bulls coach Ken Eriksen's opening comments after losing to the Sooners.

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Bulls fall 5-1 to Sooners' power bats in CWS opener

OKLAHOMA CITY -- USF softball was the unseeded surprise team making its College World Series debut Thursday, while Oklahoma was the national powerhouse back for its seventh appearance a half-hour from campus at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

And yet midway through the fourth inning, USF had a 1-0 lead on the Sooners, with ace Sara Nevins throwing a no-hitter, running through a loaded lineup with five strikeouts in her first eight outs.

That all changed with one swing, as Oklahoma freshman Lauren Chamberlain crushed a two-run home run to straightaway center for a 2-1 lead, and the Sooners pulled away to a 5-1 victory, sending the Bulls into the losers' bracket.

"The margin of error becomes smaller at this level against a great hitting team like that," said USF coach Ken Eriksen of a Sooners lineup that took the national lead with its 96th home run of the season; the Bulls hit 27 this year. "I thought their team took advantage of a couple of mistakes we made, pitching-wise ... You've got to play flawless softball to move on into the winners' bracket." …

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Live blog: USF softball vs. Oklahoma in CWS

Greetings from Oklahoma City! We're here and live-blogging from USF softball's opening game in the College World Series against fourth-seeded Oklahoma. Check in for updates and notes throughout the game, which is being shown on ESPN2.

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USF, OKC, CWS: Bulls softball faces Sooners

bullssoftball.jpgGreetings from Oklahoma City, where USF softball is less than an hour away from opening the College World Series against mighty Oklahoma here at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. We're here covering the Bulls and will be live-blogging throughout the game -- fun to see a small section of Bulls fans behind the first-base dugout, many wearing neon-green "Feed the Mouse" T-shirts for USF senior third baseman Jessica Mouse.

There's a strong wind blowing in here, gusting at 30 mph and more, which could work in USF's favor, facing a Sooners lineup that tied for the national led with 95 home runs this season. The fences here are just 200 feet in the corners and 220 in straightaway center, so the wind could help the Bulls stay in a low-scoring pitching duel like what they had in Gainesville and Tampa.

More twitpics: Here's view of the stadium and from the outfield bleachers, as well as the official USF shirt sold here at the championships.

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Woolard: Positive attitude has carried Bulls to OKC

Here in Atlanta for a quick change of flights as I head into Oklahoma City, and something that didn't get into today's Ken Eriksen story was athletic director Doug Woolard's take on why the Bulls have put together such a strong postseason run in the last two weeks.

Eriksen had USF in an NCAA regional in Gainesville when Woolard first became USF's athletic director in 2004, and he said the coach's vision for the future of the program was much like what the Bulls are enjoying this week in the College World Series.

"He never quit believing. It's something he's been positive about every day, and he's believed it every day," Woolard said Wednesday night. "He pays a lot of attention to details, and I think he's been real consistent with his team. When you keep a positive attitude and you stay consistent and steady, those things really help you toward the end of the year."

USF opens play in the CSW at 1 p.m. ET at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium against Oklahoma. We'll be live-blogging throughout the game. ...

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Rock on: Eriksen leads USF into Oklahoma City

I've got a very early flight out to Oklahoma City, and to preview Thursday's big College World Series opener between USF and Oklahoma, we're profiling Bulls coach Ken Eriksen, who is nearly obsessive in his pursuit of any advantage he can come up with for his team. With the help of Led Zeppelin, even. Here's a closer look at the man whose wife calls him the "idiot savant of softball."

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USF's Nevins earns 2nd-team All-America honors

Lots of softball coming tonight and in the morning in anticipation of USF's College World Series opener against Oklahoma at 1 p.m. ET. Tonight's first news is that USF sophomore pitcher Sara Nevins has been named a second-team All-American by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

Nevins has ranked among the national leaders in ERA, strikeouts and victories and has led USF to its first-ever CWS appearance. She was not among the 18 players on the NFCA first team, but it's a significant honor for a sophomore -- Nevins was one of 10 finalists for National Player of the Year honors.

USF's opponent on Thursday, Oklahoma, had three first-team All-Americans -- pitcher Keilani Rickets, catcher Jessica Shults and first baseman Lauren Chamberlain.

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USF's Nevins showed toughness, focus early on

TAMPA -- Ball in hand, batter staring her down, Sara Nevins was supremely confident in the pitcher's circle, unflappable in her focus, oblivious to everything around her.

And she was only 9 years old.

"She's always been that way," said Tommy Fabian, who worked with USF softball's ace pitcher as a personal coach from age nine until she was 14. "She doesn't get agitated. She's very calm all the time. Nothing bothers the girl. And yet, when she first started pitching, she wasn't real coordinated. She's come a long way. She's probably worked as hard as anybody you could think of to be what she is."

Nevins is now 20, and has led USF to its first-ever College World Series, starting Thursday afternoon against Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. She ranks among the national leaders in ERA, strikeouts and victories, and if there's an air of invincibility to the 6-foot sophomore, just ask her about the time she fell off the back of a teammate's car on the way to practice, broke four bones in her skull, spent a week in the hospital with a concussion. Doctors initially told her she could be out three months; she pitched two weeks later. …

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USF's Fountain celebrates berth, then birth

TAMPA -- USF senior catcher Laura Fountain celebrated with her softball teammates Saturday night as the Bulls became NCAA Super Regional champions, and then, after a quick overnight drive across the state, she celebrated another joyful first: Becoming an aunt.

Fountain, whose ninth-inning sacrifice fly was the winning margin in USF's Game 2 victory against Hofstra on Saturday, got a call at 1 a.m. Sunday morning that her sister Jenna was going into labor with her first child. Despite playing 27 innings of softball in the previous 30 hours, she drove to Fort Lauderdale in time for the birth of her niece, Raelyn.

"Best weekend of my life," said Fountain, who got back to Tampa in time for USF's first practice Monday afternoon.

Fountain's parents, Ron and Barb, were as nervous as any fans at USF Softball Stadium, cheering for one daughter but also waiting for a phone call from the other. Jenna, who is five years older than Laura and played softball at Lipscomb, had attended USF's regional wins in Gainesville and was planning to attend the weekend's games, but had to stay home and watch from a hospital bed. …

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USF baseball falls 7-3 in Big East title game

CLEARWATER -- After four wins in the losers' bracket to reach their first-ever Big East championship game, USF baseball saw its hopes of a conference crown end Sunday afternoon, as bullpen troubles cost the Bulls in a 7-3 win to second-seeded St. John's at Bright House Field.

USF (38-22) led the Red Storm 3-2 in the sixth, but with limited arms in their sixth game in five days, the Bulls saw St. John's (37-21) pull away to their second championship in three years and a record seventh overall.

"We needed to score runs today, and I knew that was going to be a factor," coach Lelo Prado said. "Yesterday we had to use a lot of our big guns. ... I don't want anybody to be happy with runner-up. I want to win Big East championships, and we want to get to Omaha one day. It's a great lesson for these young men. They fought hard, and when you compete and play together, good things happen. That's what happened to us this week." …

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2-for-2: USF baseball playing for Big East title

We'll have lots more from softball soon here, but USF baseball also pulled off a huge pair of wins in Clearwater, getting a 2-1 win tonight to eliminate the Huskies and advance to face St. John's n the Big East championship game at noon Sunday.

Here's our story from correspondent Ian Lanphier ...

CLEARWATER -- It hasn't always been pretty, but USF has continued to find ways to stay alive in the Big East Tournament.

The Bulls (39-21) rallied with two runs -- both scored off wild pitches -- in the bottom of the seventh inning and defeated UConn (31-27) twice in one day to advance for the first time to today's final against St. John's (36-21) at noon.

"I'm just so damn proud of our kids, man," said coach Lelo Prado. "They've worked so hard. It started in the fall. It started last year, when we didn't make this tournament, so for us to be playing in the championship, it says a lot about these young men." …

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USF softball headed to College World Series

TAMPA -- His USF softball team had played three grueling, intense, one-run games in barely 25 hours, and in that final inning Saturday, recognizing the significance, coach Ken Eriksen approached the pitcher's circle to talk to his pitcher and infielders.

"All the girls are looking at me like 'What are you doing here?'" he said, smiling after his team's 50th win. "I was like 'It's great time to get TV time.' What better way than right now?"

Eriksen will have his share of national airtime next week, as USF -- loose and calm in the most pressure-packed of conditions -- made history Saturday, outdueling Hofstra and ace pitcher Olivia Galati with a pair of 2-1 wins to earn one of eight spots in the College World Series in Oklahoma City.

"It's ridiculous," said first baseman Stephanie Medina, a Chamberlain grad whose fifth inning sacrifice fly provided the winning margin. "I don't even know how to explain it. ... It's the greatest feeling to know you've played with these girls your whole life. It's so exciting that we're from here, and we get to represent Tampa in our sport." …

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Bulls outduel Hofstra in 9th, force Game 3

USF softball has ended the 32-game win streak of Hofstra ace Olivia Galati, as the Bulls matched her zero-for-zero and struck for two runs in the ninth to force a deciding Game 3 in the NCAA Super Regional at USF Softball Stadium.

The 2-1 win for USF (49-12) started with a single by Stephanie Medina, and after a sacrifice bunt and hit-by-pitch, the Bulls got an RBI single from Kenshyra Jackson, then a sacrifice fly by Laura Fountain for the two-run lead. Hofstra threatened in the ninth, scoring a single run on a bases-loaded infield single. With the bases loaded and two outs, Galati grounded out to shortstop to end her win streak.

The Bulls toggled between Lindsey Richardson and Sara Nevins, with the same result, holding Hofstra's bats in check and limiting the Pride to two hits in the first eight innings. The Pride had three hits in the ninth, but couldn't get the tying run in. Galati has thrown 20 innings in less than 24 hours, so it'll be interesting to see if she comes back out for Game 3.

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Stultz tosses 3-hitter, forces 2nd game with UConn

From correspondent Ian Lanphier ...

CLEARWATER -- A complete-game gem by starter Derrick Stultz has USF one win from the Big East Tournament final after a 1-0 victory over UConn on Saturday afternoon at Bright House Field.

Stultz (9-1) allowed just three hits and two walks and had four strikeouts on 104 pitches, positioning the Bulls for a place in the title game if they get a win in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Huskies (31-26). USF (37-21) had to win to force the elimination game tonight at 6:30.

USF rightfielder Jimmy Falla provided the game's lone run on a homer to deep left field in the fourth inning. The Bulls drew nine walks, but failed to drive in any of those baserunners. As it turned out, they didn't need to, as excellent pitching secured a win for the second night in a row.

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USF baseball, softball go for double-double

A huge weekend for USF spring sports continues today, and the Bulls' softball and baseball teams have similar challenges: Both must beat an opponent twice today to keep their seasons alive.

It starts at 1 p.m. in Clearwater, where USF baseball has found their bats for back-to-back wins in the Big East tournament after an opening loss to Connecticut. Having eliminated Pittsburgh and top-seeded Louisville, the Bulls now must beat the Huskies -- twice -- to advance to Sunday's championship. It's not as difficult as it sounds -- USF swept a three-game series with UConn just two weeks earlier.

Softball, after Friday night's three-hour, 30-minute marathon against Hofstra, which ended as a 2-1 loss in 11 innings, get a chance to even the best-of-three series, with Game 2 set for a 2:30 first pitch and broadcast on ESPNU. After a sellout and stadium-record 1,561 fans last night, tickets are going quickly again -- if the Bulls can win Game 2, the two schools will meet a half-hour later, with the winner headed to the College World Series in Oklahoma City. …

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