Ken Eriksen again strikes gold
If all goes as Ken Eriksen hopes, USF's veteran softball coach ultimately could be competing for a gold medal even more priceless than the one he picked up last week in Canada.
Eriksen, who watched his U.S. National Team roll past Japan in Sunday's title game of the WBSC Women's Softball World Championship, seems optimistic his sport will be reinstated to the Olympic schedule in time for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
The International Olympic Committee announced recently it will recommend baseball and softball be added in an Aug. 3 general-assembly vote in Rio De Janeiro, site of this year's Olympics. Softball previously was an Olympic sport from 1996-2008; Eriksen was an assistant on the '04 U.S. team that steamrolled its way to a gold medal.
"The buzz is that we're to be prepared for some positive news coming up," Eriksen said Tuesday.
"All indications right now...are to be very cautiously optimistic for the vote on Aug. 3. ... I've been through this twice right now where it's been rejected, so I'm not gonna believe anything until I hear it coming from Rio. When we hear it coming from Rio, that's when I'll believe it."
The recent tournament in Canada did nothing to harm the sport's momentum.
The 15th Women's Softball World Championship attracted 30 national teams, representing the largest global footprint in the event's history, according to the WBSC. The U.S. finished 9-0, capped by Sunday's 7-3 triumph against Japan. Collectively, the Eagles -- as the U.S. team is known -- outscored its competition 83-10.
"We didn't do much scouting reports in respect of worrying about the other teams. This is the first time that I've ever done that with our team," Eriksen said. "We really focused on what we were trying to do each day to (better) ourselves tomorrow. We wanted to be better than we were (the previous day). ... And that's what we really, really locked in on."
Among the key contributors was Bulls pitching coach Jess Moore, who picked up the win in the title game by allowing a run on four hits in 2.2 innings. Moore also threw a complete-game, five-inning shutout against Venezuela in the quarterfinals.
"Jess was a bulldog, threw some huge innings for us in some big games," said Eriksen, whose staff posted a 1.19 ERA in the tournament. "She was just a stalwart...and a big part of that gold medal, no question about it."