ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Almost immediately, Joe Nevins knew something was wrong. An intense pressure in his chest forced him to the emergency room.
"What I wasn't expecting was the doctor the next day saying the next day I needed a bypass," he said. "Sickening feeling."
News of his heart attack quickly reached Joe's daughter, Sara, on the campus at USF, just two days before her biggest softball game of the season.
"It was really scary," she said.
Nevins, an incoming senior at USF, is one of the top pitchers in the country. Her dad is her biggest fan.
"Everyone knows him because he's a good guy," said Bulls head coach Ken Eriksen.
Since the day Nevins first picked up a softball, Joe has been by his daughter's side for every game. He coached her in little league and followed her to every tournament she played growing up in Pinellas Park.
He even has season tickets for Bulls games, but he didn't make it to the biggest game of the season last week after suffering his heart attack. He went to the hospital on Tuesday night. The Bull hosted Providence in the first round of the Big East tournament on Thursday.
And, Sara was scheduled to pitch.
She sat in the waiting room on the morning of the game. The doctors opened her dad's heart just hours before she was supposed to pitch.
Joe didn't want his daughter there. He wanted her on the softball diamond.
"'Is he alive? Is he dead? Is the next guy that walks out the door, is he going to tell us my dad is dead?,'" he said. "I didn't want her to be there for that."
Joe told Sara to go back to her teammates and compete for the league championship, something South Florida had never won.
Sara took the mound with a heavy heart and ended up pitching her heart out.
"That was a courageous game for Sara," said Eriksen. "I'm sure (Joe's) heart rate was all over the place and the monitors were beeping."
Friends texted Joe the results. Sarah struck out nine batters in six nnings and helped USF beat Providence. Two days later, the Bulls hoisted the conference championship trophy.
USF traveled to Gainesville this weekend to face the Florida Gators. Joe's doctor's didn't think it was safe for him to go with the team because of he has not had enough recovery time to be out in the heat yet.
Sara and the Bulls need to beat the Gators twice on Sunday to advance to the Super Regional round of the NCAA tournament.