Eriksen thinks softball can improve on CWS success
TAMPA -- USF softball coach Ken Eriksen was a confident guy before his team made it to the College World Series in Oklahoma City last summer, so with that dominant pitching staff back this spring, he has very high expectations for 2013.
How high? The Bulls were picked by league coaches as the Big East's preseason champs, and are ranked as high as No. 10 in national preseason polls, and yet USF still enters the season motivated to show it's better than expected.
"I think we still have a chip on our shoulder. We hear that aspect of people saying 'They overachieved last year.' 'You got lucky' is what they're saying. That comes from ignorance and fear, actually, and not enough respect," Eriksen said before practice Tuesday. "One of our administrators came running down the hall and said 'You're ranked 12th!' I was like ... I can understand that situation. We lost five seniors. When they stop talking about you, that's when you've got trouble."
USF went 50-14 last season, with the nation's No. 2 staff ERA, a miniscule 1.23. Lefty Sara Nevins of Pinellas Park (31-8, 1.12 ERA) is back as a junior, as is senior Lindsey Richardson (9-2, 1.32) and sophomore Samantha Greiner (10-4, 1.58). Freshman phenom Erica Nunn joins the staff and is likely to contribute a potent bat as well.
With confidence starting in the circle, even after perhaps the most successful season by any Bulls team in any sport, Eriksen's team is looking for more.
"Those five seniors that graduated last year, the message they sent to the kids coming this year is to be better than we were," he said. "That's the philosophy we've had here. ... I don't think we still have enough respect for what we're doing. You have to do that over time. If there's any doubt out there, you want to dispel that."
The Bulls lost key bats and leaders from last year's squad, but Eriksen points to "stalwarts" in shortstop Kourtney Salvarola and first baseman Stephanie Medina (Chamberlain), both juniors. He'll turn to young players in central roles -- freshman Lee Ann Spivey takes over at catcher for Laura Fountain, and sophomore De'Anna Devine takes over in centerfield for Gina Kafalas, whose leadoff duties fall to Salvarola. Senior Kenshyra Jackson, the designated player most of last season, takes over for Jessica Mouse at third, and twins Ashli and Courtney Goff (from Sickles) could both bring their speed to the daily lineup.
Two transfer infielders, Nicolette Levine (Newsome, by way of FSU) and Dani Wayt, could contribute as well, as could 4-foot-10 freshman Monica Santos from Wharton.
"We're not going at a lack for hitting this year," Eriksen said. "Our offensive production has probably gone up already, from what we've seen. Right now, we're looking pretty good."