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Winless Bulls prepare for rivals at UF tourney

The University of South Florida softball team will look to recover this weekend after going 0-4-1 in the season-opening USF Louisville Slugger tournament.

The Bulls travel to Gainesville for the University of Florida GRU Classic in which they will face Florida International and North Carolina on Friday and Florida on Saturday.

After the slow start, the Bulls practiced this week and talked about what was needed to prevent a possible downward spiral at the beginning of the season.

The pitchers, who walked 21 batters last weekend, worked on getting ahead of their batters, throwing the first pitch as a strike and hitting their spot.

“I think the biggest thing for me to do this weekend is getting ahead of my batters,” Niki Trowell said. “As coach Ken (Eriksen) says, ‘You can’t catch walks.'”

Trowell got the most work last week, pitching 13 1/3 innings with an ERA of 1.58, allowing three earned runs with 11 hits, striking out five and walking nine.

With those numbers she has so far become one of the leaders of the pitching staff. As a freshman at the age of 18, becoming the No. 1 pitcher on a team ranked No. 25 in the preseason is a strong hope for her.

“I hope so, that’s my goal,” Trowell said. “I’ll do as good as I can to be successful and do my job as a pitcher.”

Another area of focus for the Bulls was defense, in particular the infield. The Bulls committed nine errors in five games, and they worked on fixing that during this week’s practices.

Third baseman Ginny Georgantas and shortstop Renee Oursler, who have four errors each, were taking ground balls 20 minutes before the start of practice.

“We’re just facing too many batters at the end of the game, and that is from errors and walks,” said Eriksen. “We can’t do that.”The team will continue to work on their weaknesses, but they will not make any drastic changes.

“We’re not changing a thing,” Eriksen said. “The worst thing you can do is panic in five-game sets, especially with a 70-game schedule.”

This week’s schedule may be enough to get the team back on top. Last season, after the Bulls lost the final two of four games against the Gators, they turned on the heat at the end of the year and drove all the way to the NCAA Regional Tournament.

“After those last two games against Florida, our kids came back and caught on fire at the end of the year,” Eriksen said. “Last year we had our difficulties with Florida, and it’s time to rectify that.”

Eriksen expects tough games throughout the weekend and for teams to be playing their top players.

“They’re going to try and beat us and go at us with their best lineups and their number one pitchers all the time,” Eriksen said.Even after the sluggish start the Bulls remain a top team and feel they are respected by other teams.

“I think when you come out and do the things that we’ve done the last five, six years, when you play us, you throw your No. 1 pitcher at us and that’s what happened last weekend, and it happened all during last year, too,” Eriksen said. “We’re going to see everyone’s No. 1. I guarantee that.

“When you’ve beaten South Florida then you’ve beaten one hell of a team.”