The USF softball teams mantra has been the same all year: Feed the Mouse and win the game.
Following that mantra forcing hitters to send the ball to senior Jessica Mouse at third base has led the Bulls to the greatest season in school history, with more work still to be done. For the first time in USF history, the team will be heading to Oklahoma City for the Womens College World Series, which begins today at 1 p.m. on ESPNU.
It isnt a coincidence that this years success began when the Bulls completed their infield puzzle with the acquisition of senior infielder Jessica Mouse.
Though Mouse is a senior, shes no ordinary senior.
Mouse started her career at LSU and transferred to USF to pursue her masters in entrepreneurship and return to her hometown. At LSU, Mouse found success, culminating in her last year with the Tigers when she was named the team captain and earned All-SEC Defensive team while starting every game for a second consecutive year.
I graduated and I was looking for masters programs and I wanted to do something that I was clearly interested in, she said. LSU didnt offer a program so I came back home and USF had that program. I played with a bunch of these girls in travel ball, so it was an easy transition and weve had an incredible year.
While success has been easy to come by for Mouse, no one could foresee the sensation that Mouse would help USF create this year. Despite the transition from Louisiana, Mouse managed to continue her consistent play and was one of five players for the Bulls to start all 59 regular season games. Coach Ken Eriksen said Mouse has also managed to make her mark in the locker room.
I think that her personality is probably the foremost aspect of her fitting in, Eriksen said. Shes serious about the game and practice.
As one of the older players on the team, at the age of 23, Mouses experience has no doubt allowed her to come up in the clutch for the Bulls as she batted a .324 in the final 13 regular season games. Mouse was also one of six players to have a perfect stolen base percentage, with eight stolen bases in the regular season.
Though Mouse has earned her respect in the locker room, Eriksen said he knew she was special from her first day of practice.
Shes not trying to impress anybody she just goes and plays the game how she knows how to play it and shes impressive in that right. Eriksen said.
Sophomore shortstop Kourtney Salvarola said she agrees, and looks up to Mouse for her impressive play.
To me, Jess can do no wrong, she said. Shes always in the right place at the right time. Shes always prepared. I think shes like a softball goddess.
USF making the World Series doesnt just mark an incredible moment in school history, but it also gives Mouse the opportunity to play against her former team. With LSU in the same bracket of the double-elimination championship, a win or loss for both Tigers and Bulls could mean that Mouse will be put up against a team that she played for just two years ago.
Im very excited that they are there, Mouse said. Some of my best friends are still playing there. Im excited that theyre getting the same opportunity, they worked hard and we worked hard. Make no mistake, well all be out to win. Thats why you play.
This year has been historic for both Mouse and the team as a whole, but Mouse said she and the team want to look at it as another game.
The Bulls have already shown their ability to keep games in perspective, which Mouse hopes to continue as her career comes to an end.
USF will play in Oklahoma City, where it will first take on the Oklahoma Sooners, the host team, today at 1 p.m.
I think its a dream come true and I can say that for the rest of the seniors and even the underclassmen, but at the same time you grow up and see people play on TV in Oklahoma City and thats all you think about and thats why you work hard, Mouse said. Were just excited to represent USF this week.