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Silent star becomes leader

Courtney Lewellen is the driving force behind South Florida’s offense and plays with an attitude that embodies competitive spirit.Lewellen, a junior catcher for the Bulls softball team, is the on-field, physical leader of the team.

“Courtney is a leader by example, no question about it,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said.

“We look for her to be a leader, more by example than anything else. She flat-out hustles all the time and that by itself puts you in a de facto leadership role to begin with.”

Last season, she led the team with 33 RBI and three triples. She will be batting in the clean-up spot this season, where her clutch hitting will be beneficiary.

“She’s not a kid that’s going to pop a lot of home runs and we’re not expecting her to,” Eriksen said. “She drives those runs in. She’s a clutch situation hitter.”

Some of the reasons that she is at such ease under pressure may be because of her focus and intensity, and her constant desire and struggle to become a better player.

She was relentless in the off-season, hitting the weight room and trying to boost her .260 batting average.

“She is a kid that is never accepting of where she is right now,” Eriksen said. “She puts a lot into it so I’m expecting her to get better all the time.”

Her work ethic doesn’t end in the weight room or on the practice field – it carries over to game time and is a big part of why she, as well as the team, was a success last season.

“Courtney is great, her work ethic is great,” pitcher Corin Tassio said. “When it is time to play, she is ready to play.”

Lewellen may also be called an “old school” player because of her hustle and team-first attitude. When asked if she was the emotional or statistical leader, she pointed toward her team.

“We have a bunch of leaders on our team and everyone contributes equally, and that’s important that everyone steps up,” Lewellen said. “I think everyone has a good work habit, we have been working hard in the fall to get our team ready.”

Even though she may not think the way she plays rubs off on her teammates, they at least take note of her aggressiveness and non-stop hustle.

“Has it rubbed off on me?” Tassio said. “God, I wish I could be more like her and her concentration and everything.”Her type of play is cunning yet quiet. She is still overcoming shyness from her youth that actually led to the start of her career in softball.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t very talkative in class,” Lewellen said. “My teachers told my parents that it might be a good idea to get into some kind of sport or something, and Little League was starting up about that time.”

As a catcher she has to be a vocal leader on the field and communicate with her pitchers. Despite the Bulls’ relatively new pitching staff, there don’t seem to be any cohesion problems, and the pitchers are at ease with her behind the plate.

“I’ve worked with Courtney for many years, since we were 14 or 15,” Tassio said. ‘I think working with Courtney since she was younger, coming out here and working with her now makes it a lot easier.”

She is a top-notch student athlete and could prove to be a top-notch hitter on a team that was ranked No. 3 in Conference USA and No. 25 in the nation during the preseason.

As well as on-the-field success, Lewellen is a criminology major who has plans of graduate school and maybe law school. If her determination is as strong out of the game as it is on the field then she will have a bright future no matter what road she chooses.

“There is not much that she does that is not correct,” Eriksen said. “When you get that type of player it’s not hard to say, ‘Hey look, we want to be like her or we want to follow that lead.’ And she does things off the field right also and that’s the way she lives her life. That makes her a hell of a leader.”

  • Bryan Fazio covers softball and can be reached