GAINESVILLE — It took extra innings and a gutsy play at the plate for USF to earn its 1-0 win over Georgia Southern, while No. 2 national seed Florida fell behind in the first inning, then rallied for a 7-1 win over Hampton in Friday's NCAA Softball Gainesville Region. It was the 19th comeback win for the Gators this season.
The Bulls (44-14) earned their victory in dramatic fashion. In the bottom of the eighth, shortstop Kourtney Salvarola's squeeze bunt scored Ashli Goff — who singled to lead off the inning, then stole second and moved to third on a single by twin Courtney Goff.
"I knew she'd (Salvarola) get it down, so I was just running as fast as I could," said Goff, of Sickles High. "I just wanted to beat the play at home so I just ran as fast as I could."
USF coach Ken Eriksen said had a gut feeling Georgia Southern left-handed pitcher Sarah Purvis would present some problems for his mostly right-handed hitters. The Bulls had just four baserunners.
"We knew going into the ballgame that Purvis was a heck of a pitcher and she was going to keep the ball away for our bats and as close in the strike zone as possible," he said.
So when there was an opportunity to manufacture a run, Eriksen took it.
"We're fortunate we got around the turn, then we had one of the best bunters on the team coming up," Eriksen said.
USF pitcher Lindsey Richardson went five innings, gave up one hit and had 11 strikeouts. Pinellas Park's Sara Nevins had seven strikeouts in three innings.
Florida (53-7) rallied with a four-run third inning, then added two in the fifth on home runs by Durant alum Kelsey Horton and Taylore Fuller.
"I just made some adjustments in my first and second at-bats," Horton said. "We did a really good job getting the momentum going."
Sophomore pitcher Alyssa Bache of East Lake won her first postseason start.
USF lost twice to the Gators this season, but UF coach Tim Walton said he expects a challenge today.
"They've got Sara Nevins and I'm sure the other pitchers on their staff and the other players on their staff are probably tired of hearing Sara Nevins because they have a full, complete team, but she's really good," Walton said. "She's one of the best pitchers in the country. We know that, they know that. … And you can prepare all you want for someone like that, but you've got to be able to go out there and execute."
FSU starts well: Sophomore Lacey Waldrop struck out 11 in a complete game and junior catcher Celeste Gomez hit a long two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth to lead Florida State past Mississippi State 5-2 in the opening game of the Mobile (Ala.) Region. The Seminoles (42-16) face host and No. 13 seed South Alabama, a 10-0 winner over Mississippi Valley State, today in the double-elimination region winner's bracket.
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com. Information from Times wires was used in this report.