No. 6 Stanford among softball visitors

When the USF softball team (5-5) takes to the field this weekend it will be the first time the Bulls will play at home this season. USF is hosting the USF Wilson Tournament which features the No. 6-ranked Stanford Cardinal and the defending Big East Champion Seton Hall Pirates.

“We’re very excited to be playing at our field,” said coach Stacey Heintz. “Being at your home field and with your fans and your family around you, there’s definitely a comfort zone.”

The Bulls have proven to be very comfortable at home, finishing last season with a home record of 33-3. Their success at home was the main reason they set a school record for wins (60) last year.

USF is going to need some of that same home magic this week, as it moves deeper into a tough non-conference schedule.

On Saturday, the Bulls will play the first of a doubleheader against Seton Hall at 11:30 a.m. and finish off against the Atlantic Sun Conference’s Jacksonville Dolphins at 4. But the most appealing match-up may be when USF plays the first game of a Sunday doubleheader against the Stanford Cardinals.

Stanford comes into this weekend ranked as the No. 6 team in the country and boasts two players on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List: junior shortstop Lauren Lippan and sophomore outfielder Jackie Rinehart.

Despite the tough competition ahead, Heintz insists it is business as usual.

“Right now we’re just focusing on fundamentals,” Heintz said. “Trying to learn from everything we’ve experienced so far and building on that to get better and better every week.”

After a 2-3 start, which included two rough losses to a much-improved FIU team, the Bulls got back to .500 with a split against Notre Dame and a solid 9-1 victory over Coastal Carolina.

A reason for the team’s rebound might be the surprising play of freshman outfielder Carly Griffin. The Tampa native batted .426 with two home runs at last weekend’s GRU Classic in Gainesville, and her play earned her the Conference USA’s Hitter of the Week Award.

“(My performance) kind of took the pressure off of me, really,” Griffin said. “I came out and I proved myself.”

The Bulls are out to prove that they are ready to return to their winning ways, and with the team’s confidence and play on an upswing, it could only be a matter of time, although junior outfielder Samantha Ray thinks that time is now.

“Just being around our own fans and on our own field, I think everything will come together this weekend.”