It took a while, but it finally happened.
IUSF softball coach Ken Eriksen earned his 400th career victory in the second game of a three-game series against UAB on Saturday and Sunday. The Bulls (28-20, 7-5 C-USA) won two games against the Blazers (19-28, 5-10 C-USA) to improve their conference record to 7-5. Coming into the series, the team had lost three games in a row, leaving Eriksen stuck at No. 399.<PI"We have had such a bad run of late; it's kind of nice to finally get it," said Eriksen, who is in his ninth season as head coach.<PIThe bad run made its way into the first game of the conference series when UAB soundly beat the Bulls 7-1.
The Blazers jumped out early, when two errors by the Bulls helped UAB score three runs in the first inning. The Blazers added four more, with USF’s only run coming in the fourth inning on a single to left by junior Tiffany Stewart that scored Christie Chapman. The loss was the Bulls’ fourth in a row and stalled the celebration for Eriksen.
With the Bulls struggling, it looked as though Eriksen might have to wait even longer to hit the 400 mark. But in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, USF exploded offensively and beat the Blazers 7-2.
With the game scoreless through the third, Stewart hit a triple with the bases loaded and Krista Holle hit a single to drive home the fifth and final run of the inning. The Bulls added two more runs, but also got an outstanding performance from junior pitcher Kasey Cash.
Cash (6-4) allowed only four hits and two runs in seven innings for her second complete game of the year and the third of her career.
After the game, the Bulls surprised their coach with a present.
“I got called into the room and they surprised me with a little cake,” Eriksen said. “No. 400 never really crossed my mind, though. I was just focused on winning the next game.”
And win the next game he did, as the Bulls beat the Blazers 8-2, earning Eriksen win 401. USF rode the momentum from Saturday’s win to score early and often, tallying three runs in the second inning and two in the third. Bree Spence (13-11) went 6 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and two runs on the day. Along with Spence’s solid effort, the Bulls offense displayed some firepower as Stewart and freshman Carly Griffin both hit home runs.
Eriksen has amassed a record of 401-206-1 in the nine years subsequent to taking over for former coach Hildred Deese. Eriksen has had only one losing season and has taken the Bulls to the NCAA Regionals five times.
Although Eriksen took time to celebrate the win, he remains focused on the rest of the season.
“It’s a nice milestone. It says I’ve been around some really good teams in the last nine years,” Eriksen said. “Getting to the World Series and winning the national championship, that’s what I would like to do. I mean, 400 is nice, but let’s get to the big one.”