Mature Medina leading USF this season

As the USF softball team continues to climb in the national rankings and extend the best start in school history, it can look to sophomore first baseman Stephanie Medina as a key player in the batting lineup.

The younger sister of Jo Jo Medina, who played the same position from 2006-10 and ranks highly in USFs all-time record books, Stephanie has been a starter since arriving on campus last season due to her power hitting ability. Yet she has also grown in her role as a more mature player.

This season, Stephanie is hitting .324 and leads the team in doubles (8), triples (4), home runs (6) and total bases (56).

I worked really hard this offseason, she said. A big thing for me was my maturity at the plate. I had a habit of bringing my emotions to the plate and showing my emotions if I didnt have a good at-bat, so that was something I really worked hard on for this season.

Last season, when Stephanie struck out, her temper flared on the way to the dugout. This year, shes much more mild-mannered after at-bats, good or bad. Batting third in the lineup, one spot higher than last year, she has helped the No. 18 Bulls (33-5, 6-0) to their 13-game winning streak and an undefeated start in the Big East.

USF coach Ken Eriksen credits Stephanie for toning down her fiery nature and putting the team first.

It wasnt easy for Medina, a passionate player, to quell those emotions, but she took it upon herself by internalizing some things and keeping an even keel, he said. Its really shown through for us in crucial situations this season. She was her own worst critic last year this year, shes her own best friend. Shes improved her mental game by leaps and bounds.

Stephanie has started all but one game in her career thus far, including all 38 this season, and said she often gets advice from her older sister.

Shes always helped me a lot with my swing, she said. If Im struggling, shell call me and (jokingly) yell at me and give me words of wisdom, tell me to relax and get out of my own head.

Eriksen said he is thankful the Medinas settled in Tampa and chose USF.

Its a healthy competition between Stephanie and Jo Jo, and Jo Jo, as her biggest fan, facilitates that, he said. Those are great aspects to have, and were lucky Mrs. Medina decided to raise her girls in Tampa, and they decided to come here. Jo Jo and Stephanie are both students of hitting, and thats a special bond they share.

Stephanie and USF are home this weekend for a three-game series against St. Johns (14-20, 2-3) as it looks to continue its hot start to league play. The Bulls and Red Storm will play a doubleheader Friday beginning at 2 p.m. before the series finale Saturday at 1 p.m.