CLEARWATER - There's a saying among pitchers - keep the ball on the ground, and good things happen.
The University of South Florida (10-2 overall) did just that Sunday afternoon, allowing just four fly-outs in seven innings as the Bulls topped Illinois State 1-0 in a makeup game from opening weekend.
Freshman pitcher Sam Greiner looked sharp in her fifth start, keeping the ball down in the strike zone through her five innings of work. Greiner coaxed 11 ground ball outs and struck out one, allowing just two hits to earn her second win.
"When Sammy's on, she's going to keep the ball in the infield," head coach Ken Eriksen said. Her job is to get those ground ball outs and that's what she does best. That's why she compliments the other three pitchers on our staff so well."
Base-runners were at a premium, as Greiner squared off with Redbirds' senior pitcher Jordan Birch for three innings of no-hit softball. USF finally broke free in the fourth, stringing together back-to-back hits to end Birch's no-hit and shutout bids in consecutive at bats.
After sophomore first baseman Stephanie Medina's towering double to left-center field, sophomore shortstop Kourtney Salvarola pulled a sharp single into left, scoring Medina from second. It was one of two hits for Salvarola, and would be the only run of the game as seniors Jessica Mouse and Laura Fountain were the only other Bulls to collect a hit.
"We had a good approach at the plate today," Mouse said. "I think we gave ourselves a better chance to get runners on base, and our focus helped us get that one run we needed."
USF pitchers kept the Redbirds off the bases for the majority of the game, allowing just two runners to reach third. Illinois State had its best scoring opportunity in the sixth, using a pair of hits to put runners on second and third with just one out, but sophomore pitcher Sara Nevins struck out the next two batters, ending the threat and keeping the shutout intact. Nevins would breeze through the seventh, striking out all three in the final inning to pick up the save for Greiner and the Bulls.
"It's great to have the pitching staff we do, because you know they are behind you and can finish the job if called on," Greiner said. "I have all the confidence in the world in those three."