Eriksen will do anything for luck

Luck, be a lady.

At least that’s what softball coach Ken Eriksen is hoping.

The USF softball team is off to an 11-11 start in what many were expecting to be a banner year for the squad.

Eriksen’s reason for the team’s letdown of late: “We just need a little luck right now.”

In the Big East Coaches’ preseason poll, the Bulls were picked to finish third in the conference. And while USF hasn’t played a conference game, that hasn’t lessened the frustration Eriksen is feeling.

“I’m a little bit disappointed that we haven’t been able to play an entire ball game perfectly, and we’ve done that in the past,” Eriksen said.

USF has performed below Eriksen’s standards against teams that aren’t exactly top-tier talent.

Normally, the Bulls’ non-conference schedule is filled with the NCAA’s best teams, but this season – with the exception of Florida and No. 1 Arizona – USF has played its 19 other games against teams with a combined record of 82-96. In their last 10 games, the Bulls have lost to three teams – Sam Houston State (7-10), Indiana (5-8-1) and Kent State (3-4) – with sub-.500 records.

USF still leads the Big East in nearly every offensive category, including hits (154) and runs scored (83). Even the team batting average of .261 puts them at fourth in the Big East. Eriksen said that the difference between a win and a loss this season is bad luck, and he might have a couple of ways of counteracting it.

“I might dye my hair a little bit differently,” Eriksen said. “Get the facial hair growing. I don’t know, stick with one sock on, one sock off. I’m willing to do anything to win.”

Eriksen has already given up something this season.

“I did stop chewing seeds,” Eriksen said. “I quit seeds about eight games after the season started – I figure it might be time to resume that.”

With all his eccentric attempts to get the Bulls going in the right direction, some people might label the 10-year coach a superstitious or desperate man. But Eriksen is far from that.

In 2001, USF started the season 4-9 and still made the NCAA Tournament. Even last season, the Bulls had only four wins through 10 games and made the tournament.

“It’s not time to panic,” Eriksen said. “It’s just one of those things. You’ve just got to have a little patience and wait to make your move. I just hope we’re not going to make our move too late.”

One thing’s for sure: USF hasn’t made its move yet. Eriksen said that might have to do with some of his seniors putting too much pressure on themselves.

“I think the seniors are trying to be too perfect,” Eriksen said. “I think they know the type of talent they have, and I don’t think they want to miss out on opportunities.”

Despite his team’s statistics, Eriksen said his players aren’t playing aggressive enough to play with the best in the country. Judging by the team’s 10-0 loss to No. 1 Arizona on Saturday, he’s right.

“You got to try and make things happen. If you’re too fine and you’re too conservative, you can’t make things happen,” Eriksen said. “I think we’re trying to get that out of our system right now.

“I think the thing we need to do with luck is create it, and we’re not creating those opportunities.”

Eriksen better hope his team can create something soon. USF has made the NCAA Tournament four of the last five years, but this season the Bulls were supposed to make their entrance into the upper ranks of collegiate softball and they haven’t – yet.

“I like to play the odds every day, get the best matchups we can,” Eriksen said. “But it’s going to be whatever it’s going to be.”

Eriksen’s luck better be with his ladies, or odds are he will end up bearded, bleach blond and sockless.