Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Colleges

Deep rotation gives USF softball high hopes

TAMPA

She has recorded more strikeouts than anyone in a Bulls softball uniform. In the 2012 Super Regional, she fanned 23 Hofstra hitters in 24 hours. Her next no-hitter will be the fifth of her college career.

And what has all that high-velocity brilliance earned LH senior Sara Nevins? An opening day start at home at 6 Thursday against No. 3 Florida. What happens beyond that, coach Ken Eriksen says, depends on performance and matchups.

"Right now Sara, she throws it pretty good," Eriksen said last week. "Not saying that somebody else isn't going to throw it better at the end of the year; we've had that happen before. That's my job, to make sure everything works out the right way."

A knock on Nevins? To the contrary: It's a testament to USF's staff, of which the former Pinellas Park standout is the clear cornerstone.

It might be the deepest of Eriksen's 18 seasons. Combine it with a lineup returning seven everyday starters from the 2013 Big East tournament championship club, and it's little wonder the fan base has its collective gaze on a second College World Series trip in three years.

USF is 23rd in the espn.com/USA Softball preseason poll.

"One will throw harder, one will throw more spin. One will kill you up, one will kill you down," senior 1B Stephanie Medina said. "It's just one of those things where it's exciting to know that no other team in the country has five pitchers that have what we have."

Among those behind Nevins (1.30 career ERA, 804 strikeouts): junior RH Sam Greiner (14-5, 1.66 ERA in two seasons), junior college transfer Karla Claudio (Puerto Rican national team) and sophomore LH Erica Nunn (3-2, 2.58 ERA in '13).

Freshman Susan Wysocki, a 6-foot Gold-level travel ball pitcher, could enter the mix. And Eriksen, who may be to pitchers what Steve Spurrier is to passers, won't hesitate to swap any out in the middle of an inning, or even the middle of a count.

Some, including Eriksen himself, suggest he'd make a move in mid-windup if it were permitted.

"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," he said. "I'll do what it takes to win."

It all starts Thursday, and it starts with Nevins. From there, the starts are to be determined.

"The only thing batting average tells you and earned-run average tells you is what you did yesterday," Eriksen said. "I need you to do something today. So my job as a coach is to try to put the best team on the field to give those young ladies an opportunity to be successful."

FERNANDEZ DAY TO DAY: Women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez, hospitalized two days last week after a recurrence of diverticulitis (among other ailments), said Tuesday morning that he hopes to be on the bench for tonight's game at Memphis.

Fernandez, who missed Sunday's 79-59 loss at No. 4 Louisville and didn't travel Tuesday with the Bulls, said he also experienced inflammation in an area where he had a hernia removed in April, as well as a severe throat and mouth infection.

If "all goes well," he said, he'll be in Memphis in time for the shootaround.

SIGNING DAY SURGE?: Starting at 7 a.m. today, USF will live stream national signing day coverage at gousfsports.com, announcing signees as the school receives letters of intent.

The Times will provide updates and live coverage on its USF web page (tampabay.com/bulls) and via Twitter (@TBTimes_Bulls).

The Bulls, believed to have 25 oral commitments at this point, could finish with roughly 30 signees. Among those on their board: Jesuit LB Vincent Jackson, Immokalee RB D'Ernest Johnson, Sickles OLB/DE Josh Black and Miami Northwestern four-star WR JoJo Robinson.

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