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Home cooking has USF riding high

If a team wants to be successful, there’s one component that will definitely help accomplish that.

Getting it done at home.

For the No. 21 USF softball team (34-10, 6-3 in Conference USA), that’s been the mantra all year.

With a 25-1 home record, the lone loss coming at the hands of 2002 National Championship runners-up Arizona 3-1, the Bulls look to continue that trend as they host Jacksonville (16-20, 5-7 Atlantic Sun) in a doubleheader starting at four.

When asked why the team is so hot at home, USA coach Ken Eriksen said he isn’t too sure why, but he likes it the way it is.

“You probably could attribute it to comfort,” Eriksen said. “Maybe it’s sleeping in your own bed or not having to get into unfamiliar territory.”

The Bulls have already faced the Dolphins three times, each game resulting in a shutout. The Bulls blanked Jacksonville 6-0, 2-0 to begin the season and 4-0 on February 14. Even with three wins, Eriksen believes that Jacksonville will not be an easy pushover.

“Anytime you take the field, it’s a 50/50 situation whether you’re going to win or lose,” Eriksen said. “Whether you beat a team 18 times in a row, or they beat you 18 times in a row, it’s still a new game. We’re not looking past Jacksonville at all in the first game. We’re going to approach them like we’ve approached everything else this year, and that’s to dominate and be relentless in our approach.”

Jacksonville is led by Jill Bandhauer and Dianna Korcak. Bandhauer leads the team with a .357 batting average while Korcak is behind with a .333 batting average.

Ace pitcher Katie Dobson has been the hard-luck loser for the Dolphins with a low 2.62 ERA and 82 strikeouts, but sports a mediocre 5-13 record.

The Bulls have four batters hitting over .300 as they’ve rocked opposing pitching this year to the tune of a .298 team batting average. Seniors Courtney Lewellen and Renee Oursler have been the catalysts of the offense, batting .400 and .368, respectively.

The pitching has been outstanding with junior Leigh Ann Ellis leading the way. Ellis sports an 18-5 record, with a 0.85 ERA and a school-record 191 strikeouts.

Eriksen believes that a major reason behind the recent success may not be any changes in the lineup but the weather.

“The weather has heated up,” Eriksen said. “If you take a look at statistics across the country, either major league baseball, college baseball or softball, when the weather heats up, the bats heat up.”

Thomas Carrigan covers USF softball and can be reached at