TAMPA — The Louisville softball team came into Friday's Big East semifinal with a potent lineup, hitting .340 as a team and averaging nearly seven runs a game.
But the Cards, who hadn't been shut out in their past 41 games, ran into USF junior Sara Nevins, who dominated with a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory at USF Softball Stadium.
That sent the Bulls into today'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 third baseman 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. "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 having 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 a half-game in the regular-season standings, and the teams will meet today for the first time. The Fighting Irish advanced easily with a 9-1 mercy-rule win in six innings over DePaul as Laura Winter, the Big East player of the year, allowed four hits in six innings.
"It's important for everybody to come together, especially in times like this," Jackson said. "We really wanted it (Friday), and as you can see, we got it. We're ready and prepared for (the final)."