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Off-season success

The 2007 off-season has been a busy one for USF softball coach Ken Eriksen.

Despite recording his 500th collegiate win, leading the Bulls to a 44-22 record and clinching second place in the Big East this year, the Bulls’ postseason run was cut short when they were eliminated from the conference tournament by Louisville. The loss knocked the Bulls out of contention for the NCAA Tournament, the first time they failed to qualify since 2002.

Since the end of the season, Eriksen has spent most of his time attempting to improve the USF softball program. Whether it’s been fundraising or cementing next year’s recruiting class, the coach has been hard at work this summer.

One of the things Eriksen is most excited about for next season is the talented batch of recruits he has been able to bring to USF. Included in that class are speedy position players Kati O’Brian and Kelly McCarver and highly touted pitching recruit Capri Catalano. As a senior at Walton Beach High School, O’Brian had an impressive .349 batting average while McCarver’s .423 average and 30 stolen bases helped lead Spruce Creek High School out of Port Orange to the state finals in 2006. Catalano set the New Jersey state record for strikeouts, finishing her career with more than 1,300. In her last high school game, a state semifinal, Catalano struck out the first 20 batters she faced before forcing a groundout for the final out of a perfect game. Catalano has proved she can contribute on offense as well. The North Brunswick, N.J., native had a .330 batting average with five home runs and 25 RBI in 2006.

Eriksen, who is entering his 12th season with USF, recently spoke with the Oracle concerning everything from his attempts to raise funds for the program to the new recruits he’s bringing in for next season.

The Oracle: How’s the summer going for you, Coach?

Coach Ken Eriksen: The summer has been too long already. Actually, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to raise money to get this new facility going for us.

O: What kind of progress have you made on that front?

K.E.: Well, it’s actually going slow, but it seems to be moving ahead. It’s just that we really just don’t have a lot of concrete situations going on right now. But I know that the athletic director has really been busting his cans to try and open up some new revenue sources for us. With the advent of the ISP deal and everything else involving the progression of money coming in to the University; hopefully that will help.

O: As far as the team itself goes, how has the recruiting been? You signed Capri Catalano, a very good pitching recruit; how do you feel about that?

K.E.: Well, anytime that you can get a state champion and a kid that broke all the high school records in the state for strikeouts to come in, we’re pretty excited about it. (Catalano) is going to join a pretty formidable pitching staff already with Bree Spence, Cristi Ecks, Kristen Gordon and Courtney Mosch. I think that just adds to keeping it going. When you finish third in the country in ERA as a team, you’re pretty happy about how things that are going on with your pitching staff, and now to add someone like that, it can only make us better.

O: With Catalano coming in to join your current staff, USF could be poised to have one of the best pitching staffs in the nation next season.

K.E.: Yeah, I think so, just as long as I don’t screw it up.

O: As far as the offense goes, you’re only losing a couple of seniors from last year. Are you excited about bringing all those players back?

K.E.: I am, and I’m actually pretty happy about adding some speed to the lineup next year as well. We have a young lady coming in from Spruce Creek High School, Kelly McCarver, who can flat out fly and another young lady from the Pensacola area by the name of Kati O’Brian who’s also a flyer, and adding speed to the lineup is always going to help, no question.

O: With all these additions and the return of the majority of last year’s team, are you hoping to make a return to the Super Regional Tournament that the Bulls got to two years ago?

K.E.: Actually, now we’re not looking forward to the Super Regionals. This time, we’re looking forward to getting into the College World Series.