OKLAHOMA CITY -- USF softball's historic run to the College World Series ended Saturday by the smallest of margins, with LSU eliminating the Bulls with a 1-0 victory, scoring the winning run without a hit in the sixth inning.
"You're in the final eight, you're going to see great pitching," said USF coach Ken Eriksen after each team totaled two hits. "You're going to see 0-0 games, and that one break is going to happen."
USF (50-14) was just the third team in Big East history to make it to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, and ace Sara Nevins held the Tigers (40-24) in check into the sixth inning, which opened with Countryside's A.J. Andrews being hit by a pitch. With one out, Eriksen turned to reliever Lindsey Richardson, but the next batter, Ashley Langoni, sent a shot to deep right-centerfield, bouncing in and out of the glove of USF's Janine Richardson.
With the bases loaded, LSU got its run in unusual fashion, with Armstrong boldly tagging up and scoring on an infield fly deep to shortstop. USF got a runner on in the seventh, but the Bulls' season ended when Gina Kafalas' bunt hit her after she left the batter's box.
"I think it was just a great experience for us, and hopefully we can make it back next year," said a teary-eyed Salvarola after the game. "This experience just helped us learn, get better and actually prove to ourselves and realize that we can play with these teams."
USF was held to two hits by LSU senior Brittany Mack, but the Bulls had opportunities -- the opening two batters reached base, but the Bulls couldn't advance them; the leadoff batter was caught stealing in the second, then thrown out at the plate in the third. The Bulls had runners at second and third with two outs in the fifth, but senior Jessica Mouse, a Chamberlain graduate who played three seasons at LSU, struck out to end the threat. After the game, LSU's players crowded around their former teammate, a warm gesture of sportsmanship at the end of the college career of Mouse, who finished the game on deck.
"LSU was crying their eyes out today. You know why they were crying their eyes out today? Because of Jess Mouse," Eriksen said. "That's pretty impressive to me. That's a classy showing. ... How could you not be proud as an opposing coach of the other team? That was phenomenal."
Five of USF's final six games were decided by a single run, and the Bulls closed their season with the three pitchers with the lowest ERAs in college softball. The winning run was scored by Andrews, a Countryside graduate who said she wasn't recruited by USF, but Eriksen -- wrapping up perhaps the best season by any team in USF history -- said his 22 players are the only 22 he'd want to have wearing Bulls jerseys.
"I wouldn't trade anybody on my team for anybody. Period. No way, no how," he said. "You've got to win it in the locker room first, and if you win it in the locker room, you win on the ball field. And that team won in the locker room."