No. 7 Michigan headlines softball tourney

When the USF softball team (14-8) hosts the Louisville Slugger Tournament Friday through Sunday, it will face some big names and familiar competition.

USF will play six games at the USF Softball Complex against tough teams, three of which — Jacksonville, Temple and Florida — the Bulls have a combined record of 2-1 against this season. But before the Bulls get another chance at a rematch, they will have to face a perennial top-ten team in the first game of the tournament.

On Friday, the Bulls play the No. 7-ranked Michigan Wolverines (16-1) at 3 p.m. With seven College World Series appearances in the last ten years and three All-Americans — including shortstop Jessica Merchant, last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year — the Wolverines boast an impressive resume.

“They’ve got a tradition of being a very good program, as we do,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “I think it’s going to be a great learning experience for our young kids to play against them.”

All the pitchers on the Michigan staff have an ERA under 0.95, for a combined team ERA of 0.75. Add to that the fact that the Wolverines are averaging over six runs a ball game and batting .325 as a team, and you have a team that appears to have lost little ground since last year’s seventh-place finish in the College World Series.

On Saturday the Bulls take on the No. 15 Florida Gators (13-5) at 3 p.m., and on Sunday they play Jacksonville (8-9) at 5 p.m. and Temple (3-8) at 7 p.m.

The Bulls’ experience with each of these teams should help them when it comes time to face them again.

“(There’s) comfort, in that you know who you’re going against,” Eriksen said. “You still have to come out and play as hard as you can.”

The Bulls have been playing hard and playing well of late, proven by the five-game winning streak they are currently riding into the tournament. They have won close games with outstanding pitching and have had some big wins this season with some big bats. All that the Bulls need now is to put it all together.

“It would be nice to get all three things working at the same time, pitching, defense and hitting. We haven’t done that quite yet,” Eriksen said. “This would be a great weekend to get it all going.”