Nevins throws emotional gem in Bulls' 3-0 win
TAMPA -- USF pitcher Sara Nevins didn't have a familiar face in the stands Thursday night, but she took the ball and pitched six shutout innings, delivering a gem in the Bulls' 3-0 win against Providence in the Big East tournament, two nights after her father Joe suffered a heart attack.
"For Sara Nevins to come out on a long day like that and tell me she wanted the ball tonight, that she was OK ... she was phenenomal," coach Ken Eriksen said. "That was a lot of emotion today."
Nevins, a junior from Pinellas Park, spent time Thursday morning with her father, who underwent successful bypass heart surgery on Thursday afternoon. Nevins is known for being able to play emotionless during games, but Thursday was a challenge she hadn't faced before.
"I thought about him. He told me to make sure I pitched well, to do it for him," said Nevins, a junior left-hander who was named Big East Pitcher of the Year on Wednesday.
Eriksen said that Nevins' father, a regular at Bulls games, had asked his doctors to move a 1:15 surgery to 7:30 a.m. on the chance he might be able to attend Thursday's game; he wouldn't be surprised if Nevins is there Friday to watch his daughter pitch against No. 9 Louisville.
The Bulls (41-14) were held to one hit in five scoreless innings, but broke through for three runs in the sixth, sparked by D'Anna Devine's double down the left-field line. With the bases loaded, freshman catcher Lee Ann Spivey hit a high line drive off the first baseman's glove to bring in two runs, and that's all the support USF's pitchers needed. Lindsey Richardson pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for her sixth save.
"(Spivey)'s hitting fifth. That's an RBI spot, and she's done it all year for us," Eriksen said. "She's like Nevins. You take a look at her, no emotion, just give me the bat and ready to play ball. Those are the type of kids you want."
Spivey said he tried to be a calming influence on Nevins, who helped the Bulls shut out Providence for the fourth time this season; they have three shutouts in their other 50 games.
"Before the game, I told her whatever she was pitching at me, I was going to stop it. I know what she's been going through," Spivey said. "We just all have her back no matter what. She pitched her heart out tonight, and I'm really proud of her."
The Bulls advance to Friday's semifinals, where they'll face third-seeded Louisville, the Big East's highest-ranked team, as high as No. 9 in the national polls. The teams didn't meet in the regular season, but both finished within a game of the Big East regular-season title.
Top-seeded Notre Dame and fourth-seeded DePaul advanced to the other semifinal with shutout victories Thursday. Notre Dame's Laura Winter, the Big East Player of the Year, threw a three-hitter, striking out eight in a 6-0 win; Chloe Saganowich had three of the Fighting Irish's five hits and two RBIs. DePaul got a 1-0 win behind Kirsten Verdun's two-hitter, facing one more than the minimum, and centerfielder Samantha Dodd had three hits and drove in the game's only run. Louisville advanced with a 12-3 mercy-rule win against Syracuse in five innings, getting four RBIs from centerfielder Jordan Trimble.