TAMPA – The Bulls needed two wins on Saturday to stay alive in the NCAA Tournament.
After dropping Friday night’s Super Regionals opener to Hofstra 2-1 in 11 innings, USF battled back with a 2-1 victory in nine innings on Saturday afternoon to push a deciding game three. The Bulls squeezed out another 2-1 victory on Saturday night to advance to their first-ever College World Series.
In game one, both teams were scoreless through the first eight innings of play.
Olivia Galati (34-7), who pitched all 27 innings of the series for the Pride, kept the Bulls off the board until the top of the ninth, when Kenshyra Jackson delivered an RBI single up the middle. Laura Fountain added a key sacrifice fly to give USF a 2-0 lead.
Sara Nevins (31-5) and the Bulls had to fight off a Hofstra rally in the bottom of the ninth to push a deciding game three. Becca Bigler hit an infield single with the bases loaded and two down to cut the Bulls’ lead in half, but Nevins got Galati to ground out to seal the victory.
In game three, the Bulls got on the board quickly against Galati, with Jackson working a bases-loaded walk on the eleventh pitch of her at-bat in the first.
Hofstra tied it in the second when a run crossed on a passed ball, and the two teams found themselves in another deadlock.
The Bulls played small ball in the fifth to push across the deciding run.
Gina Kafalas led off with a single up the middle, and Jessica Mouse laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance her to second with one down. Kafalas advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Stephanie Medina delivered with a fly ball deep enough to left to score Kafalas with what would be the winning run.
Lindsey Richardson started the game and delivered 1-1/3 scoreless innings on just two hits, before being lifted for the Bulls sophomore lefty, who tossed the final 5-2/3. Nevins allowed just one unearned run on three hits while striking out six Hofstra hitters.
The Bulls clung to the one-run lead with three outs to go and the top of the Hofstra order due up. Nevins got Rachael Senatore to ground out, and cut down Becca Bigler swinging to bring up Galati as the last chance for the Pride.
With a 2-2 count, Galati pulled the ball on the ground right at Jessica Mouse at third. The Bulls’ senior third baseman fielded the ball cleanly and fired to Medina at first for the final out, sealing the victory to send the Bulls to their first-ever College World Series appearance.
USF (50-12) will head to Oklahoma City to battle No. 4 Oklahoma (50-8) on Thursday at 1 p.m. With just eight teams remaining in the postseason, the format will be double elimination leading up to the best-of-three championship series.