Leadoff hitting sets the tone for softball team

There are many important ingredients that go into making a top softball team; these are good pitching, quality hitting, solid defense and a solid athlete at the leadoff spot.

Being the first batter for the team out of the dugout, there are many skills and tasks that the leadoff batter requires.

“They have to have a lot of confidence and the ability to get deep in the count and the ability to face any pitcher is important,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “They have to be fearless, and they also have to be versatile: They have to have speed and a little pop in the bat.”

One of the more crucial roles that a leadoff hitter has is to work the count and get as many pitches as she can in order to show her team what kind of stuff the pitcher has.

“If she can show the rest of our team as many pitches as she can in her first at-bat than she had done her job,” Eriksen said. Leadoff hitters have to have great awareness of pitches and confidence to take the pitcher long into a count.

“As a leadoff batter I try my best to see as many pitches as I can to allow my teammates behind me to get better timing on the pitcher, especially at the beginning of the game,” South Florida’s leadoff hitter, Stephanie Roberts, said.

The next order of business for the leadoff batter is to get on base. The first batter usually is one of the fastest players on the team and can use hitting, bunting or drawing walks to get on base. But if you ask a leadoff hitter such as Roberts which way she prefers to get on base she will reply, “Any way I can.”

“Stephanie Roberts is perfect for us in that respect (versatility) because she’s a triple threat,” Eriksen said. “She can bunt, hit grounders and pop the ball a long way sometimes. She’s a decent little hitter for us in the leadoff spot. Besides that she is very, very confident, there is not a pitcher that she doesn’t think she can hit.”USF will need to maximize the success of its leadoff hitter this weekend when it hosts Coastal Carolina, Seton Hall, Indiana, Hofstra and Maryland in the USF Holiday Inn Tournament starting today when the Bulls take on Coastal Carolina at 2 p.m.

“We have to go out there and attack and ask questions second. Pull the trigger first and ask questions second,” Eriksen said. “We’re looking to do that in the first game against Coastal Carolina and set the tone for the weekend.”

USF (5-9-1) needs to go on a winning streak to prepare for conference play, which opens next week on March 2 against Houston.

One of the reasons for USF’s sluggish start is that the team is allowing too many errors. The Bulls have committed 25 errors and will attempt to stop the defensive bleeding this weekend.

The Bulls may be changing some things with a shift in the defense. Third baseman Ginny Georgantas was practicing taking ground balls from the second base position.

“We may change some things around a little bit this weekend in respect of using our athletes in good positions,” Eriksen said.

“We have a heck of an outfielder in Renee Oursler. She’s a great shortstop and a good outfielder. Shelly Riker is a good outfielder. She can also play the infield, and Ginny Georgantas is a very versatile player who can play short, third and second.”