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Freshman leads USF into start of Big East play

Freshman pitcher Lindsey Richardson did not expect to excel immediately for the USF softball team.

But the 5-foot-10 Estero native has been the Bulls’ most consistent pitcher this season, posting a 6-3 record with a 2.24 ERA – both team highs on a young pitching staff.

“Playing at USF has been a great experience for me so far,” Richardson said. “My teammates are great to be around and have taught me that I need to work harder than ever to perform well at this level.”

Beating the competition is nothing new for Richardson. She was first-team all-state three times at Fort Myers High, combining 20 shutouts with 578 strikeouts during her junior and senior years. Richardson also lettered in volleyball one year and graduated with honors.

Richardson, who is majoring in biomedical sciences, said the transition to college life was easy, but she has had to work much harder on the softball field to have success.

“Coming to South Florida was an easy decision for me,” she said. “I knew from my first visit that this was where I needed to be because I loved the coaches and girls on the team. Adjusting to the competition has not been easy because everybody in Division I is good. Teams aren’t as intimidating in high school, so I have been working much harder by making sure that I leave each practice and game better than I came into it.”

The Bulls knew they had something special after Richardson’s first few appearances.

In a loss to East Carolina on Feb. 13, she pitched four innings of relief and allowed one run and struck out seven. She started and earned her first victory the next day against Canisius, when she pitched a complete game and struck out 11. She had zero walks in her first 20 innings.

“(Richardson) has given us tremendous consistency in the pitching department,” said Bulls coach Ken Eriksen. “She is aggressive and goes after hitters, which is a very mature approach for someone her age. Hopefully, her effort starts to rub off on our other players.”

Richardson, 19, leads the team with 81 strikeouts while only yielding nine walks. Opponents are hitting .260 against her in 59 1/3 innings.

“One thing I notice about talented players such as Richardson is that they are very teachable,” Eriksen said. “She is learning a couple different pitches right now, and she will be truly dominant once she masters them.”

The Bulls (15-16) had a mediocre start to this season after a 34-22 record last year. Most recently, they split a doubleheader against Cornell at the USF Softball Stadium on Saturday. Richardson pitched the first game – a 4-1 victory – and turned in 6 1/3 innings of work.

Despite some early season struggles, Richardson believes the Bulls are in the midst of turning a corner as Big East play begins at home Friday against Seton Hall.

“We are really starting to come together as a team,” she said. “We weren’t swinging the bats very well at the beginning of the year, but we have been hitting and playing great defense as of late. If everyone has the mindset of getting better every single day, we will all benefit in the long run.”

The Bulls have combined to hit .260 on the season and average 4.2 runs per game. They have committed 30 errors in 31 contests. Senior catcher Cat Olnick said Richardson has been extremely valuable for the Bulls.

“She brings energy and enthusiasm to the team,” Olnick said. “She is always communicating with our infielders and me to make sure that everyone is in position to give us the best chance to make outs and win. She is in complete control every time she takes the ball.”