During the 2001 softball season, Shelly Riker, a record-setting high school base runner, was hailed as the fastest freshman to ever play for USF.
On Thursday, Riker set a USF record that may be all but untouchable by the time she is done.
Riker, the Bulls’ left fielder, stole the 69th base of her career Thursday in the second game of a doubleheader against Oakland (Mich.), breaking the record of 68 held by Lea Mishlan, who is now the team manager.
“She’s a fast runner but she’s a very instinctive runner,” Bulls coach Ken Eriksen said. “She gets a great jump and she knows how to slide. Getting great jumps and knowing how to slide is worth 10-12 stolen bases a year anyway.”
Riker also set a single-game record, with four stolen bases, helping the No. 22 Bulls (18-4) defeat the Golden Grizzlies 6-1 for their 12th consecutive win. USF won the first game 8-0 in five innings.
Riker now owns every stolen base record for USF, as she set the single-season mark of 33 last season. Considering she is only a junior, Riker could wind up with 100 or more steals by the end of her USF career. She said, however, that steals don’t preoccupy her mind when she’s on the base paths.
“Really, my objective is just to get on base,” Riker said. “And then what happens from there is bonus. I really just focus on getting on base; I don’t focus on how many stolen bases or anything like that.”
At Palmetto High School, Riker set a record for consecutive successful steal attempts (131) and finished with 187 steals. She usually batted in one of the top two spots in her first two seasons at USF, but Eriksen moved her down the order this year to introduce more players into the mix.
Eriksen moved her back into the second position in the batting lineup in the second game, Thursday and she responded with four hits, which Eriksen joked might lead to a demand for more playing time.
“Tonight we moved her into the two spot because we wanted to give (center fielder Stephanie Roberts) a break for the weekend,” Eriksen said. “So moving Shelly into the two spot, you know she’s going to be in my office (today) going, ‘Hey, I need to be in the two spot.’ Her and Robby are going to be battling around.”
Riker deferred the decision to Eriksen.
“What we’ve been doing has been working, so whatever Coach decides to do with me, I’m glad I had the opportunity to play (Thursday night),” Riker said.
Riker wasn’t needed in the first game, as the Golden Grizzlies (2-8) did enough to seal their defeat in the first inning. Two wild pitches and an error led to three USF runs, and the Bulls tacked on five more, including two in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.
“They’re a good team and they just didn’t play well tonight,” Eriksen said of Oakland. “We were fortunate enough to take advantage of some of their miscues, but they’re a very good team.”
The Bulls pounded out 13 hits in the second game and shortstop Christie Chapman and catcher Courtney Lewellen drove in two runs each to lead USF to a 6-1 win.
Bulls pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis went the distance in the first game for her eighth victory of the season, while Corin Tassio went 6 2/3 innings in the second game, also earning her eighth victory.
USF begins conference play this weekend, taking on East Carolina in a three-game series. The teams play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 1 p.m. and return to the USF Softball Complex Sunday at noon.