USF to host Opening Day softball tournament
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 00:02
Softball coach Ken Eriksen hasn’t been sleeping too well lately.
But it’s OK, he said. He can sleep next Monday.
This weekend, USF hosts the USF-Wilson DeMarini Opening Day Tournament, welcoming four teams to the USF softball stadium.
The Bulls, ranked No. 10 in the ESPN preseason softball poll, will start the season against Marshall on Friday afternoon, and Eriksen said he can’t wait to get started.
On Saturday the Bulls face elite competition, when the No. 13 ranked Michigan Wolverines will take the field in the first of two games for USF.
The temptation to overlook a seemingly lesser opponent in order to focus on a big game is a tough battle in sports, but the young Bulls have adopted the mentality that every game is a big game.
Veterans such as senior pitcher Lindsey Richardson live with this mindset every day, because of the lessons taught by Eriksen.
“In my three years here, I’ve learned to treat every team the same way,” Richardson said. “It doesn’t matter what their ranking is.”
Eriksen’s emphasis on the present and not looking past an opponent is engrained in his players’ minds, she said.
As he teaches his players to play in the moment, Eriksen also likes to coach in the moment.
The 16-year coach said he anticipates more substitutions than usual to begin the season, and has not decided which pitcher will start against Michigan.
“I don’t think that you stay with a set lineup. I like the options of being a transistor type of coach,” Eriksen said. “Our depth allows us to do that, and our players’ acceptance of creativity allows us to be productive.”
The coach said he may substitute a pinch-hitter in the middle of an at-bat. He may use three or four pitchers in one game, solely based on the opponent’s lineup.
Even National Player of the Year Watch List nominee Sara Nevins buys into the strategy.
“I like it,” she said. “We welcome it. If someone is in trouble and needs to be taken out, we can rely on the next person to come in and take control.”
The junior, who has pitched over 400 innings in two seasons, also said getting pulled out of a game isn’t something that hurts her mentality, because she knows her replacement will get the job done.
After facing Michigan, the Bulls will play Samford on Saturday evening and Florida Atlantic University on Sunday.