Depth a strength for USF softball in 2010
With a deep pitching staff and much of its batting order back from last year, USF softball opens its 2010 season this weekend, hoping to improve on a disappointing 2009 finish.
The Bulls went 34-22 last season, missing the NCAA regionals for the second time in three years, and after a promising 7-2 start in Big East play, the Bulls dropped seven of eight games to take themselves out of postseason contention. After tying for fourth in the league, USF was picked fourth in the league's preseason poll, but coach Ken Eriksen is optimistic about his team's potential.
"We're very deep at all positions. It's time. We're champing at the bit to get out there," Eriksen said Thursday.
The Bulls were scheduled to play five games in this opening weekend, the highlight being a (UPDATED: now Sunday) game against Florida, which is ranked as high as No. 3 nationally. Friday's doubleheader against Canisius and Illinois State was postponed by inclement weather, which would impact the entire weekend.
Eriksen said he has five solid pitchers at his disposal, including two trying to get back to the dominant form they showed as freshmen. Senior Kristen Gordon won 16 games in 2007 and has "probably some of the nastiest stuff I've ever coached," Eriksen said, and sophomore Capri Catalano, who went 17-1 in 2008, is back and healthy after sitting out the 2009 season with injury. Add in sophomores Candace Howell and Brittany Bowles and freshman Lindsey Richardson, and Eriksen has all kinds of options in the circle.
"I don't have a set pitching rotation," Eriksen said. "I think once we get through the first and second weekend, we can say 'This person is defining themselves as a person you want out there the first three, four innings, the next person does a good job of coming in and shutting the door in case you have any issues, and you might have a closer."
USF lost a dominant all-conference hitter from last season in Britta Giddens, but Eriksen likes the top of his lineup. He'll slide junior first baseman JoJo Medina into the No. 3 slot in the order, with sophomore Janine Richardson and senior Tara Toscano at the top of the lineup. Eriksen said he'll use seniors Alison Savarese and Cat Olnick along with freshman Stormi Grzybek in the middle of the order.
USF has the excitement of knowing a new stadium will be in place for the 2011 season, so the Bulls will split their home games between campus and the E.C. Moore Complex in Clearwater. Eight of USF's 11 home Big East games will be played in Clearwater, with just an opening three-game series with Seton Hall on campus as a farewell of sorts to the Bulls' old field.