Dynamic Offense Fuels Syracuse to USF Tournament Title
By Sam Lebowitz
CitrusTV’s Softball Beat Reporter
Tampa, Fla. – Syracuse (8-9, 0-0 ACC) struck for revenge against USF (10-8, 0-0 AAC) with a dynamic 7-5 win, taking home the USF Tournament title with them.
Syracuse earned its place in the tournament finals after beating the third-seeded Rutgers yesterday afternoon. USF, the tournament’s host, was 4-0 on the weekend leading up to the final day. They beat Syracuse 1-0 on Saturday.
The Orange shot first in this one. AJ Kaiser led off the second inning with a solo home run, her second in as many games. It finished a stretch of four at bats dating back to yesterday’s rout against Rutgers in which Kaiser went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers, a double, and five runs batted in. Kaiser now leads the team in RBI with 11.
The lead did not last long, however. The Bulls loaded the bases in the bottom of the second on a walk sandwiched by a pair of hit-by-pitches from Catie Dobbs. A passed ball by Kaiser behind the dish, made worse by an error on the play, scored two Bulls runners. They took a 2-1 lead without notching a hit.
Syracuse fought back immediately with a pair of runs in the third. Gabby Teran and Neli Casares-Maher singled to lead off the frame. Rebecca Clyde bounced a ground ball to the shortstop, who bobbled the ball and could not get an out, allowing Teran to score the tying run. Later in the frame, Mia Cunnings drove in the go-ahead run with a groundout.
Entering the bottom of the third, Shannon Doepking opted to pull her freshman starter in favor of Alexa Romero, who tossed six strong innings against USF yesterday. The third batter she faced, pinch-hitter Madison Epperson, took her over the fence for a game-tying homer to even the score at three.
It stayed that way until the fifth, when Toni Martin batted with runners on second and third with only one out. Martin singled to score both runners and gave the Orange the lead. The hit was part of a big three-hit performance for the senior outfielder. She later came around to score on a Jamie Gregg single to give Syracuse a three-run inning.
That would be just enough for Alexa Romero, who tossed five solid innings in relief on her way to the victory. The lefty allowed four hits and three runs, but struck out eight Bulls and once again did not walk a batter. That makes for consecutive walkless outings for Romero after she walked five on Friday.
Syracuse leaves Florida with a tournament crown. They head towards their first conference fight with a road series against UNC next weekend.
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