Softball team wins 18th in a row
Shortly after Northwestern freshman Morgan Nelson's game-tying solo home run to right field in the top of the seventh Tuesday evening, USF's adopted mantra began resonating throughout its dugout.
Step on their throats. The brash directive wasn't chanted or hollered, just spoken in matter-of-fact monotones, like someone calling out the inning's batting order.
"That's what we say a lot in the seventh inning," 2B Kristen Wyckoff said. "Just basically finish it, but in a different term."
Moments later, with two out and Wyckoff on first, junior Juli Webber laced a double to deep center field, allowing Wyckoff -- one of the American Athletic Conference's fastest players -- to score easily.
Ballgame. Another trachea trampled. The Bulls' 3-2 triumph, before a USF Softball Stadium crowd of 512 on a mildy chilly night, was their 18th in a row.
A victory Thursday in the AAC opener at East Carolina, and the Bulls (26-9) tie the school record for consecutive wins held by the 2012 club that reached the College World Series.
"It's amazing," veteran coach Ken Eriksen said. "I've coached for a long time and this team has no memory. They don't have an immediate memory, they don't have a long-term memory, and that's pretty special. I think you can go a long way with that type of mentality, so hopefully we'll keep it up."
Weber had given the Bulls a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fith on a solo homer to right, seemingly providing an ample cushion for ace Erica Nunn. But Susan Wysocki stepped in for Nunn after the left-hander put runners at the corners and allowed a sacrifice fly to open the sixth, cutting USF's lead to 2-1.
After Wysocki allowed Nelson's leadoff homer in the top of the seventh, Eriksen re-inserted Nunn (6.2 IP, season-high eight strikeouts), who retired the next three batters she faced.
And the stage was set for USF's second walk-off triumph in as many days. With two out, freshman Lindsey Devitt -- who had entered as a defensive replacement for Wyckoff -- drew a walk. Wyckoff pinch-ran for her, and easily scored from first on Weber's blast.
"For the past (18) games...we've finally got it to click where nothing fazes us at all anymore," Wyckoff said.
"They get two runs, we get two runs right back the next inning. We don't let anything faze us anymore. I think that's what's really allowing us to stay locked in and keep this winning streak going."