Q&A: Ken Eriksen
USF softball coach Ken Eriksen, whose 23rd-ranked team (per ESPN) opens the season Thursday against No. 3 Florida, spent a few minutes with reporters earlier this week. Here's a bit of what was tossed his way:
In terms of starters, which positions are still in question?
"At this time, a week before the season, I think we're just really trying to get our pitching staff in position right now to kind of have a rotation-type deal through the first weekend. And then it will all depend on the matchups we decide to go with. ... As far as positions open for question, I know (Kourtney) Salvarola's going to be at shortstop, (Stephanie) Medina's going to be at first, Ashli Goff's going to be in right, (Lee Ann) Spivey behind the plate. Other than that, it's who's going to be hot at the rest of the positions right now. So you've got some good options at this point."
Describe left-handed All-America pitcher Sara Nevins' approach entering this season, after all she has accomplished to this point.
"The great part about Sara is, she has no idea what she has accomplished. She's that type of
player that, every day is a different day, every approach is a different approach. She's kept
her head on straight. I don't think her teammates have allowed her to even think about Sara
the superstar or those type of things."
Could this be your fastest team?
"I think, top to bottom, this is probably the fastest team, probably the most in-shape team also that we've had. I'm looking forward to some pretty healthy abilities to run down to first base and hopefully run down from home to home. But it looks good, better than I've ever seen it before."
Talk about your early-season slate (USF faces three top-10 teams in the season's first 10 days).
"I've got to talk to the guy that makes the schedule because that guy right now is a little happy; we need to calm it down just a little bit. But I don't think there's anything better than playing the best competition early to get you ready for the postseason. If we see the best pitching early on, I think there's nothing we haven't seen later on. And I think that's been kind of the m.o. of this team for the last 15 or 16 years: You play the best you can and you play it as early as you can."
How important is the beginning of the season?
"Well, I think the beginning is real important for the fact of playing the game the right way. I've never told our team, 'You have to go out and win.' But we have to play the game the right way. There are certain things you're not going to be able to control sometimes. ... By and large, if we continue to play the game the right way, we're going to end up on the right spot, and that's all I've asked them to do. I really want them to focus on playing the game the right way in every situation."
Do you feel your pitching staff as a whole gets underrated because of Sara?
"I would think that if I'm going to write about the University of South Florida's pitching staff, it's going to be, 'Sara Nevins and who's the other people?' But you take a look at who the other people are, and you've got...Erica Nunn, who was an 18-under Gold championship pitcher; Sam Greiner, who was a runner-up national pitcher in the 18-under Gold; then (transfer) Karla Claudio, who was the Florida pitcher of the year in junior colleges and is on the Puerto Rican national team. ... You've got a pretty good pitching staff that can pitch with anybody in the country, so I'm not averse to using anybody in every situation, as you guys well know."