In his 23rd season as USF softball’s head coach, Ken Eriksen has had plenty of talented teams, including the 2012 squad that went to the Women’s College World Series.
Even with 13 NCAA Tournament appearances under his belt, Eriksen said that this year’s team is unique in its own way.
“This might be one of the most intelligent teams I have ever had,” Eriksen said. “These guys have grasped a lot of concepts early, they work very hard and they bring their lunch bucket to practice every day.”
Impressed by the bright minds of the younger players, Eriksen will have options when deciding who will be in the starting line up. The competition is high right now, and positions are up for grabs. Returning players are aware that their spots are not guaranteed and they will have to fight for their positions.
“I feel that in every position there is someone fighting right behind and that at each position there are multiple people who could easily play,” redshirt senior Mia Fung said. “I feel that no one has a set spot on this team. You have to fight every day.”
Fung is aware that her head coach has not guaranteed everyone a spot on the starting line up. Fung played 48 of 62 games last season and finished with a .279 batting average, eight home runs and six stolen bases.
Although some players are seemingly solidified, such as senior infielder Lindsey Devitt, who played 61 of 62 games last season. She finished with a .379 average, six home runs and six stolen bases. Eriksen points to her experience when it comes to his decision to play Devitt.
“Some of the guys that have game experience, like Devitt,” Eriksen said. “That is a no-brainer for us. She will probably be batting around the third spot. But you can surround her with seven or eight different people in different types of alignments.”
Even though she is not guaranteed a spot, Fung said she feels that this team is one of the best she has been on.
“This is probably one of the best chemistries I have had in all of my years here, that just makes you want to go out and fight even harder,” Fung said. “It is just exciting, we are all excited for it.”
USF Opening Weekend Invitational will start on Thursday, Feb. 7 and USF will be facing a number of ranked opponents. The University of Florida, University of Arizona and the University of Michigan are all coming into the tournament as top-10 teams.
The Bulls are no stranger to strong scheduling though, as they have played multiple ranked opponents the past two seasons. Two of those teams being Florida and Michigan.
Regardless, Eriksen is not worried as he is no stranger to ranked opponents. He is confident in his new team and believes the early competition will set them up for success.
"We're posturing ourselves well with getting great competition, challenging ourselves early and getting some (players) that don't have a lot of game experience right into the fire right away," Eriksen said. "It's what we do. It's the way we've always been."