TAMPA — USF pitcher Sara Nevins didn't have a familiar face in the stands Thursday night, but she took the ball and pitched six strong innings in a 3-0 win against Providence in the Big East tournament, two nights after her father Joe had a heart attack.
"For Sara Nevins to come out on a long day like that and tell me she wanted the ball, that she was okay … she was phenomenal," 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 had successful bypass heart surgery Thursday afternoon. Nevins is known for being 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 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. Eriksen wouldn't be surprised if Nevins is there tonight to watch his daughter pitch against No. 9 Louisville.
The Bulls (41-14), held to one hit in five scoreless innings, broke through for three runs in the sixth, sparked by outfielder D'Anna Devine's double down the leftfield 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. 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 she tried to be a calming influence on Nevins (23-7), 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, and I'm really proud of her."
The Bulls, ranked No. 24 in the coaches poll, advanced to today's semifinals, where they'll face third-seeded Louisville, the Big East's highest-ranked team at No. 11, in the second game at 6:30. The teams didn't meet in the regular season; both finished within a game of the Big East regular-season title.
Top-seeded Notre Dame and fourth-seeded DePaul advanced to the 4 p.m. 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 Jordan Trimble.
more softball: Kirsti Merritt went 3-for-4 with five RBIs as No. 2-ranked Florida beat No. 9 Alabama 8-4 in the SEC tournament in Lexington, Ky. The Gators (50-7) face Georgia in a semifinal at 1 today (ESPNU). … Host FSU beat Boston College 6-0 in the ACC tournament. The Seminoles (40-15) face North Carolina in a semifinal at 3:30 today (Fox Sports Florida).
Information from Times wires was used in this report.