USF softball opens NCAA regional vs. UCF at 3:30
USF softball is back in the NCAA regionals for the first time in four years this afternoon, with a 3:30 first pitch in Gainesville against Central Florida. (You can follow the game online through free live video from UF's official site.)
The Bulls (45-11) will face a tough Knights team that went 39-17 and also beat the host Gators, as USF did in March. UCF will throw freshman Mackenzie Audas -- from Plant City -- who had a 1.21 ERA and struck out 261 batters. USF's Ken Eriksen wouldn't confirm a starter on Wednesday in interviews with the media, but he's expected to throw sophomore Sara Nevins, who has a 1.06 ERA, a 26-5 record and 273 strikeouts this season.
USF comes in with more experience and success against top-tier competition -- the Bulls are 25-9 this season against teams in the current RPI top 100, while UCF has a 13-15 record in such games. The Bulls and Knights last met in the 2008 NCAA regionals, where UCF got a 3-2 in Gainesville.
It's a double-elimination, four-team tournament, with the host Gators, seeded fifth nationally, playing Florida Gulf Coast at 6 tonight and today's winners meeting on Friday. The Bulls have eight previous NCAA regional appearances under Eriksen, but they've only advanced to Super Regionals once, in 2006.