Eriksen begins 20th season as Bulls softball coach
After much anticipation, a fiercely competitive, outspoken New York native will kick up a little dust Friday on USF's campus.
In other news, Donald Trump will speak at the Sun Dome.
Bulls softball icon Ken Eriksen, the most successful coach in USF athletics history (818 wins and counting) embarks on his 20th season when the Bulls face South Carolina on Friday to kick-start the USF-Wilson DeMarini Tournament. On Wednesday, during the school's softball/baseball media day, Eriksen discussed this year's club and how he has changed in the last two decades.
How has Ken Eriksen evolved in 20 years?
"We were actually talking about this the other day, what do I know now that I didn't know back then? And I think more than anything else, I know about relationships more. I think it's important to know your players. I think it's important to know, without diminishing the other 20 players on your team, who Lee Ann Spivey is, what makes her tick; and to know how far you can push an Erica Nunn. But I believe that those 20 years have helped me not only coach this team but coach the (U.S. women's) national team. ... And then one of the big things is, I think it's important for players to know that you have vulnerability so they can have a trust in what you're doing and realize that everything you do is for their development, not just as players but as people."
While we're on it, what does make (senior catcher) Lee Ann Spivey tick?
"When the sun comes up in the morning, she has fun. I think any time you watched her play from the time she was a freshman in high school to where she's going into her senior year right now, to her it's still a game. She leaves all her stuff, personal stuff if it's good or bad, off the field. She plays and she's always smiling, because you know she's having fun. ... You can always count on her to give you a great at-bat, count on her to give you a great defensive play, just for the simple fact that she knows that I know that it's a game that kids play, and then you're trying to get better at it every day."
What will be the identity of this year's team?
"I don't know, that's a really good question. ... If I look forward already, I can't wait for Tuesday's practice next week, for the simple fact that, whether we win five games, four games, three games or whatever this weekend, how serious is this team about getting back to work on Tuesday for the rest of the 51 games on your schedule? I've got a really good feeling about that part of our identity, that these guys are bringing a lunch pail every single day. There's not one guy on our team that's a superstar. The team that we have put together right now has all bought into the fact that we have five, six pitchers and we've got 18 hitters. ... And everybody has to play at their top level for us to be a very competitive team that can go very, very deep in the postseason."
Each year is a new team with new dynamics, so what kind of feel do you have for the dynamics of this team?
"We have a chance to be all facets. We have a chance to be very, very good in pitching. We have a chance to be very, very good on defense. We have a chance to be very, very good on offense. We have a very, very good chance to be a short-game, speed team, a power team. I don't know yet. It's gonna be to see how they respond. We've been doing really well against each other."
Will the change in the American Athletic Conference weekend schedule (from three games in two days to three games over three days) really affect anything?
"It hurts because we've got to spend another day on the road. The budget guys aren't real happy with it. I don't know whose idea it was to go to another day on the road since the NCAA's trying to get more time for these guys at home. Okay, that was my soapbox. As far as...how will it change our strategies? I don't know if it's gonna change our approach since we have a pitching staff. I think it can change the approach of our opponents, where we might not see two pitchers; we might see one pitcher all three games. It's not gonna happen for USF. You're gonna see two, if not three different starters in all those games. And you might see three different lineups."
USF softball at a glance
Coach: Ken Eriksen (20th season, 420-1)
2015 record: 36-20 (6-10 AAC). Missed NCAA Tournament (last team out)
Top returning hitters: C Lee Ann Spivey, Sr. (.378, 10 HR, 52 RBI); INF Kristen Wyckoff, Jr. (.344, 25 SB); UTIL Astin Donovan, So. (.341 12 SB)
Top returning pitchers: LHP Erica Nunn, Sr. (10-8, 2.73 ERA, 102.1 IP, 84 K, 60 BB); RHP Susan Wysocki, R-So. (8-2, 3.06 ERA, 70.2 IP, 57 K, 24 BB)
Outlook: Eriksen, one of the more unconventional skippers in the game, hasn't leaned on a workhorse since career wins leader Sara Nevins departed in 2014, meaning the Bulls will utilize a bona fide pitching staff. Nunn has evolved considerably since her arrival in Tampa, adding what Spivey calls an "insane dropball" to her repertoire. Offensively, USF possesses power (see Spivey) and fleetness (see Wyckoff) in spots, but no concrete identity.
Schedule: Click here