Eriksen: Sara will get her groove back
It practically has evolved into a rite of February at the USF Softball Stadium: Left-handed ace Sara Nevins' consistency fluctuates with the weather.
In a pair of starts, the Bulls' senior All-American finds herself saddled with a 4.90 ERA, albeit against elite opposition. In starts against Florida and Michigan, she has surrendered as many earned runs (seven) in 10 innings as she has in a two-week span in prior seasons.
And her 12 strikeouts would look far more impressive if she didn't also have 12 walks. So what's with this early sluggishness?
"The early-ness of it," Coach Ken Eriksen said.
In other words, this is typical Nevins: fighting through February wind chills to find her rhythm. Two Februarys ago, she walked four and was tagged for two earned runs on five hits in an eight-inning, 3-2 loss to Florida.
Six days later, she surrendered three runs on seven hits and two walks in only 4.1 innings in a 7-6 win against Arkansas. Three months later, the Bulls were in the College World Series.
"We're trying to find a pretty good rhythm right now," said Eriksen, whose club (1-2) hosts No. 2 Tennessee on Saturday as part of the three-day USF Tournament.
"You've got a pitcher like her who's a feel pitcher, and the more innings they get under their belts, the easier to get with those things. She's not a real mechanical-type pitcher...she's a feel-type pitcher, and that's why she's so good."
For the Bulls, having Nevins re-gain her groove can't come a weekend too soon. Tennessee returns five players, including right-handed ace Ellen Renfroe, from the team that annihilated the Bulls 11-0 early last season.
"As the year goes on and the weather becomes warmer, (Nevins) is the type of kid that gets into that rhythm and that fluidity a lot easier," Eriksen said. "But once she's there, she's there. You're just hoping we get there this weekend."