Bulls hope to find offensive identity on the road this weekend
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 00:02
The USF softball team, ranked No. 17 in the nation, will travel to Clearwater this weekend for five games as part of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic.
With four freshmen earning considerable playing time, coach Ken Eriksen said the Bulls are still looking for an offensive identity.
A key to that identity could be sophomore outfielder D’anna Devine.
After managing only one hit in opening weekend play, batting in the last third of the order, Devine bounced back with seven hits last weekend at the top of the batting order.
Devine was a leadoff hitter through her high school career in Pennsylvania. As of last weekend, she is back in her natural spot in the batting order.
“If D’anna can do what she did last weekend, then we’re going to have some opportunities to score runs,” Eriksen said.
He said a difference between Devine and last season’s leadoff hitter, Gina Kafalas, is that Devine can drive the ball better.
Eriksen said the one-two-three combination of Devine, Ashli Goff and Kourtney Salvarola creates many on-base opportunities, but it’s up to the four-five-six hitters to drive them home.
The new one-two-three hitters are batting a collective .388.
Though the Bulls have struggled to gain an offensive balance during the last two weekends, Eriksen said he thinks this season will feature better hitting than last season’s Women’s College World Series team.
“I don’t think we need to sacrifice bunt as much this year,” he said. “We have more power hitters at the plate, and more kids that can drive the ball.”
USF will face another Top 25 opponent this weekend with the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
Eriksen said Big East Pitcher of the Week Lindsey Richardson will start against No. 12 Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday at 6 p.m. The senior right-hander has only given up one earned run in 28 1/3 innings this season.
“Louisiana-Lafayette has a lot of right-handed power hitters. Lindsey’s pitches move away from right-handed hitters really well, “ Eriksen said. “It’s a big game and Lindsey is a big game pitcher.”
Those hitters include seniors Brianna Cherry, Sarah Draheim, Matte Haack and freshman Shellie Landry. The foursome has combined to drive in 44 of the Ragin’ Cajuns 69 runs scored this season.
But first, USF will face off with Southern Illinois at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
USF will play James Madison at 3:30 p.m. and UC-Davis at 6 p.m on Saturday before finishing the third week of the 2013 season against Illinois State at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
“We have to approach everybody like a World Series team,” Eriksen said.
Devine said the Bulls haven’t done anything different in practice to correct their seven errors in five games last weekend, but they don’t expect the errors to be a recurring issue.
“Coach is big on not looking back, so we leave it in the past,” Devine said. “We’re not letting any games slip this weekend.”