Nevins shuts down Cards, puts Bulls in Big East final
TAMPA -- Louisville softball came into Friday's Big East semifinals with a potent lineup, hitting .340 as a team and averaging nearly seven runs a game.
The Cards, who hadn't been shut out in their last 41 games, ran into USF junior Sara Nevins, who dominated with a three-hit shutout, sending the Bulls into Saturday's Big East championship game against top-seeded Notre Dame.
"It's that old adage that good pitching stops good hitting, all the time," coach Ken Eriksen said. "I'll put that pitching staff we have up against anybody in the country."
USF (42-14) struck for three runs on all three of their hits in the third inning, getting an RBI double from shortstop Kourtney Salvarola, then a two-run single by Kenshyra Jackson, whose biggest play might have come in the field. Louisville (46-11) had the bases loaded in the third, and Jackson made a diving grab of a line drive in foul territory to end the threat.
"I'm not going to lie. I kind of got nauseous the one inning when it was bases loaded and Shy caught the ball," said Nevins, a Pinellas Park grad who improved to 24-7 with the win. "It was nerve-wracking. I know, one through nine, they're all great hitters. You can't throw the ball past them at all. You have to hit your spots and make them hit it to your defense, so they can make plays like that."
Nevins, who didn't allow another hit until the seventh inning after Jackson's grab, had thrown six shutout innings Thursday in a 3-0 win against Seton Hall, the same day her father Joe had bypass surgery after suffering a heart attack Tuesday night. Nevins said Friday that her father, a constant in the stands at Bulls games, was improving and even walking around Friday.
Notre Dame (43-12) edged the Bulls by just a half-game in the regular-season standings, and the teams will meet Saturday for the first time. The Fighting Irish advanced easily Friday with a 9-1 mercy-rule win in six innings, with Laura Winter, the Big East Player of the Year, allowing four hits in six innings.
"It's important for everybody to come together, especially in times like this," Jackson said. "We really wanted it today, and as you can see, we got it. We're ready and prepared for tomorrow."