Team leader Liwag making most of senior season

Carmela Liwag is going to graduate soon, but that won’t stop her from having a little fun.

The senior first baseman for the USF softball team went to Red McEwen field with a few team members to try a different game on for size.

“We were up at the baseball field practicing and Carmela and the others were out on the mound and behind the plate like they were playing baseball,” coach Ken Eriksen said. “They were having fun just being kids out there.”

Liwag’s attitude has been a source of inspiration for the Bulls over the last four years. But never has she been more needed than this season, where she is the only everyday senior on a team laden with freshmen.

For Liwag, though, it seems like yesterday when she walked onto the USF campus a freshman herself.

“When I first got here, I was unbelievably nervous,” Liwag said. “But the seniors at the time I was here gave me some pretty good pointers.”

Now it’s Liwag who is giving the advice. She has been the leader by default, but Liwag will never be seen in anyone’s face; she is more likely to be spotted lending a hand.

“We had Christmas dinner at her place, and if we ever need a place to hang out, we always go to her house. She’s there for everybody,” freshman pitcher Bree Spence said. “For me, I could never get my laundry right. She always teased me about that, but she would still help me.”

From suds to swings, Liwag has always been there for her teammates. During games, she makes time to give the Bulls’ young pitching staff a lot of support from her spot at first base.

“I just let them know that we have their back and things like that,” Liwag said. “I felt like there was a role that had to be kind of filled.”

And she has filled that role perfectly. She started 48 games as a freshman, and in her next two years as a full-time starter at first base, the Bulls made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Bulls finished with their best record in school history at 60-14.

When Eriksen recruited Liwag as a senior out of Pinellas Park High School, he took note of her incredible potential.

“She had some unbelievable tools. She had great hands and the ability to hit from both sides of the plate,” Eriksen said. “But most of all, she had a great perspective; she loved to play.”

The incredible talent Eriksen saw has come to fruition. The switch hitter has hit for average and power as she sits atop many career USF statistical categories. Liwag is third all-time in home runs (15) runs scored (132), doubles (51) and RBI (152).

She has also been a force on defense — her career fielding percentage is .989. Liwag is the career leader in putouts (1740), which is more of a testament to her ability to grab the starting job at first base as a freshman.

After this season ends, the Bulls will miss her bat and her presence in the infield, but as much as the Bulls will miss Liwag, Liwag will miss them.

“I’m going to miss coming out here everyday, wearing this uniform and just coming out here with everyone. I’ve made so many friends. I’m really going to miss it.”

Although four years may have gone by fast, Eriksen is confident that Liwag’s attitude has rubbed off on the rest of the team.

“What she’s brought to our team will continue next year with our juniors. She has taught everyone that has ever been around her how to play this game and how to have fun; She’s just a class act,” Eriksen said. “I think that’s what Carmela brings to our team, she’s still a kid loving to play this game.”