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USF to host Opening Day softball tournament

Softball coach Ken Eriksen hasnt been sleeping too well lately.

But its OK, he said. He can sleep next Monday.

This weekend, USF hosts the USF-Wilson DeMarini Opening Day Tournament, welcoming four teams to the USF softball stadium.

The Bulls, ranked No. 10 in the ESPN preseason softball poll, will start the season against Marshall on Friday afternoon, and Eriksen said he cant wait to get started.

On Saturday the Bulls face elite competition, when theNo. 13 ranked MichiganWolverines will take the field in the first of two games for USF.

The temptation to overlook a seemingly lesser opponent in order to focus on a big game is a tough battle in sports, but the young Bulls have adopted the mentality thatevery game is a big game.

Veterans such as senior pitcher Lindsey Richardson live with this mindset every day, because of the lessons taught by Eriksen.

In my three years here, Ive learned to treat every team the same way, Richardson said. It doesnt matter what their ranking is.

Eriksens emphasis on thepresent and not looking past anopponent is engrained in hisplayers minds, she said.

As he teaches his players to play in the moment, Eriksen also likes to coach in the moment.

The 16-year coach said heanticipates more substitutions than usual to begin the season, and has not decided which pitcher will start against Michigan.

I dont think that you stay with a set lineup. I like the options of being a transistor type of coach, Eriksen said. Our depth allows us to do that, and our playersacceptance of creativity allows us to be productive.

The coach said he maysubstitute a pinch-hitter in themiddle of an at-bat. He may use three or four pitchers in one game, solely based on the opponents lineup.

Even National Player of the Year Watch List nominee Sara Nevins buys into the strategy.

I like it, she said. Wewelcome it. If someone is in trouble and needs to be taken out, we can rely on the next person to come in and take control.

The junior, who has pitched over 400 innings in two seasons, also said getting pulled out of a game isnt something that hurts her mentality, because she knows her replacement will get the job done.

After facing Michigan, the Bulls will play Samford on Saturdayevening and Florida AtlanticUniversity on Sunday.