Bulls welcome C-USA rivals to tourney

Since Conference USA softball began in the 2000 season, the Bulls have gone 4-4 in the C-USA Tournament and finished third and fourth.

Maybe some home cooking is what the Bulls need. They host the C-USA Tournament May 9-11.

“It will be very exciting to host it,” said Bulls coach Ken Eriksen. “It’s a great deal when you’re there and you’re hosting it. We’ve had some great success here in the past in South Florida hosting tournaments. From back in 1982 when we were hosting Sun Belt Tournaments, we were winning ’em.”

But Bulls fans shouldn’t mark the dates on their calendars just yet.

“We hopefully will make it,” Eriksen said jokingly. “Top six teams make it this year, so we’ve got our work cut out for us this year.”

C-USA’s coaches voted to admit only the top six teams from regular-season play into the tournament, meaning three teams will have an early summer vacation. The tourney will still be double-elimination format, but the games will take place in two days rather than the usual three.

“It’s a two-game elimination type of deal, and the teams with the depth in the pitching are the teams that are going to succeed,” Eriksen said. “That’s what basically happened the last two years.”Southern Miss is the defending tournament champion, and DePaul won the regular season championship in 2001. But Eriksen warned of two teams that could be dark horses.

“Everybody’s talking about DePaul, and everybody’s talking about Southern Miss. But I tell you what, you’ve got to watch out for Louisville and Houston,” Eriksen said. “Houston returns nine starters. Nobody in our conference returns nine starters; they do.”

USF hosted an NCAA Regional Tournament in 1998 and came within one game of reaching the Women’s College World Series. Eriksen will once again know the feeling of playing host in May – provided the Bulls qualify.

“Any time that you can have the Olympics in this country and play in front of your countrypeople, that’s very exciting,” Eriksen said. “So for us at South Florida to host the conference tournament, we’re being able to play in front of everybody here now for our conference championship … for us to bring quality softball into the Tampa Bay area again, that conference tournament is going to be a big-time tournament. No question about it.”

  • Contact Khari Williams at oraclekhari@yahoo.com