Bulls softball team seeks history tonight
It will step between the lines of East Carolina's field this evening, then try to cross history's threshhold.
A victory against the Pirates in tonight's American Athletic Conference opener would be the 19th in a row for USF's softball team, tying the program record established by the 2012 club. After a woeful start against sturdy competition, the Bulls (26-9) have altered the trajectory of their season.
"This year the team's mentality is just a lot different where it's just the same as how the winning streak's going: we're not letting anything faze us," leadoff hitter Kristen Wyckoff said. "The first few weekends...we just let it go, we got better from it and I guess now we're sticking with it all."
Peer into the Bulls' figurative equipment bag, and you're likely to find a collection of intangibles to which Wyckoff alludes. To be sure, the Bulls have exuded moxie, displayed mettle and leaned on memory loss during their streak.
"They don't have an immediate memory, they don't have a long-term memory, and that's pretty special," Coach Ken Eriksen said.
Yet for all the mental sturdiness, the Bulls wouldn't be standing at the cusp of a school record without improved pitching.
"The pitching has really been the key to us, giving us a chance," Eriksen said.
Only four times in USF's first 17 games did the Bulls allow two or fewer earned runs and two or fewer walks. During their streak, they've done it 14.
Part of that improvement may be attributed to the level of competition. Twelve of the Bulls' first 17 games were against Power Five programs, and USF went 4-8 in those games. During their streak, they have faced only five Power Five foes.
But whomever is standing in the batter's box -- be they from a Power Five program or Panhandle high school -- is irrelevant if pitchers can't get the ball over the plate. In their first five contests -- four of them defeats -- USF pitchers totaled 25 walks.
That's the same number they've totaled in their last 12 games.
"If you go back and watch videotape of the games, we were hitting balls right at people left and right," Eriksen said.
"We weren't getting good pitching. No bones about that, and (pitchers) Erica (Nunn) and Susan (Wysocki) and Cheyenne (Eggens) will attest to that. All the credit goes to (first-year pitching coach) Jess Moore about having these guys attack the plate."
Today, they'll attack history.