NCAA softball preview: Scouting the Pride
USF softball's huge NCAA Super Regional showdown with Hofstra is barely two hours away, and since much of the next 24 hours will be about softball, here's a quick primer on the Pride and the challenges they'll present the Bulls this weekend.
-- You probably know about Hofstra ace Olivia Galati, who has won 31 games in a row and leads the nation with a 0.91 ERA. What you probably don't know: She's also Hofstra's leading hitter, hitting .361 out of the No. 3 spot in the Pride order, with four home runs and 37 RBIs. Hofstra only had four hits in its regional-clinching win against San Diego State, and she had two of them.
-- She has a ridiculous amount of strikeouts: 363 this season. Recent examples: in the first regional win vs. SDSU, she struck out the first eight batters; in the regional-opening win against host UCLA, she struck out eight of the first nine, the exception being one batter who fouled out. She struck out 14 in that game.
-- That crazy ERA could be a lot lower -- Galati has given up 33 earned runs this season, but 15 of those came in Hofstra's 2-11 start, so she's given up 18 earned runs in their last 41 games -- they're 39-2 in that stretch. She can be hit -- UCLA got 14 hits off her in the regular season in her last loss (March 4), and the Bruins got nine hits in the regional last week. She gave up two home runs in the sixth, then three singles to open up the seventh, but with the tying run on deck, she pulled a Nevins, going K/K/foul out to clinch the win.
-- There's some pop in Hofstra's lineup, even if it's against an easier schedule than USF has faced. They hit .299 as as team (compared to just .268 for USF) and they hit 43 home runs, as opposed to 27 for the Bulls. Two hitters have 11 home runs each -- shortstop Becca Bigler and rightfielder Tessa Ziemba, who hit second and fourth in the Pride lineup. Their offense, like any, comes and goes -- they had just four hits in the first win against SDSU, that against a pitcher who was 13-11.
-- Can't say enough about how incredible Hofstra's comeback from a terrible start has been. Pride opened up 0-9, all against top 100 opponents. First win? Galati threw a no-hitter against Virginia Tech, a 10-0, five-inning win that was Hofstra's only victory against a top-60 RPI opponent until the three wins in the regional. Second win? Galati threw a 3-hitter to shut out Ohio State. Third win? Galati threw all nine innings and struck out 18 (!) in a 3-hitter, winning 1-0.
-- The only loss Hofstra's taken in their last 37 games was a 7-6 loss in eight innings to Lehigh, a game in which Galati did not pitch. The Pride gave up 15 hits in the game, but again, Galati wasn't throwing.
-- Lots more we'll get to over the weekend -- USF's sellout crowd is a huge advantage, but Hofstra lost only one true road game all season, going 15-1 in road games.