With only two weekends left in South Florida’s softball team’s regular season, the team faces the fact that for the first time in Ken Eriksen’s six-year career as head coach the team failed to reach .500.
The Bulls are 20-30-1 with only six games remaining, starting Saturday with a doubleheader against Saint Louis at USF at 1 p.m. The previous low for Eriksen was 41-33 in 2000.
Eriksen’s first losing season does not change the perception of the coach, who is considered by players both past and present, fellow coaches and opponents as one of the top coaches in the nation.
“Absolutely not,” Eriksen said. “If you take a look at the finer programs around the country everyone will have one of those years.”
The disappointing season of the Bulls team that was preseason-ranked No. 25 in the country, keeps Eriksen’s hopes up of what needs to be done to right the ship. The Bulls lost infielder/pitcher Cindy Turek, pitcher Jamie Peterka, outfielder Kristen Turek and reserve infielders Stephanie Strickland and Tina Biersak, who left the team for personal reasons.
“It’s a reaffirmation of what needs to be done,” Eriksen said. “We had a couple of players that were supposed to be here. I’m real excited about the foundation coming back next year.”
The Bulls can still salvage their season and earn a berth in the Conference USA tournament they host by winning their next 5-of-6 games.
“(The losing season) doesn’t really matter if we make it to the conference tournament, which we still have a possibility that we can make it through,” senior Alanna Hazzard said. Hazzard and Ginny Georgantas will both play their last home game as Bull’s Sunday.
Reaching the top of the record books in several categories, Georgantas’s five years she has become one of the top players in school history reaching the top of the record books in several categories.
“She definitely has contributed among the top players,” Eriksen said. “When you think about South Florida, you think of Ginny Georgantas as being a big part of our winning stuff.”Barring some unforeseen problem Georgantas will become the all-time leader in games played Saturday, tying the record during the first game and breaking it during the second against East Carolina before graduating and entering the Marines. Along with her moments on the field some of her most memorable times as a Bull are those in which she spent with her teammates.
“We haven’t been winning, and it hasn’t been an ideal season, but the friends that I have on this team just make everything worthwhile,” Georgantas said.Hazzard has improved both on the field and in the classroom since her arrival in 1999.
“Alanna was going through some struggles with how she wanted to attack the game and school,” Eriksen said. “The most exciting points of Alanna was becoming a 3.0 student last year, and she is one of the smartest base runners ever here.”
The memories they most regret leaving behind are the ones of the friends they have made throughout the years.
“Thirty years later when I look back I’m not going to remember the teams we lost to or the games we won. I don’t even remember four years ago the teams we beat except for the big teams like Alabama,” Georgantas said. “When I look back all I remember is the team. Like how we get along and my friends and everything like that. That’s what I’m going to miss the most is my team and camaraderie that we have together.”
The highlight of Georgantas and Hazzard’s careers came last season when USF was one game away from the Women’s College World Series.
“Probably the biggest moment was last year when we were kind of the underdogs, and we were one game away from the World Series,” Georgantas said. “We proved everybody wrong. We proved to everyone that we could do it, when nobody thought that we could.”
The first losing season since 1989 has disappointed the Bulls, but hopes still remain high about the programs future and the memories that remain for departing Bulls.
Bryan Fazio covers softball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org