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Softball faces high-ranking teams in tournament

The softball team will welcome North Carolina State, Coastal Carolina and No. 4-ranked Tennessee to the USF softball stadium this weekend for a four-team tournament.

The Bulls face their toughest opponent of the season on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. asa perennial softball powerhouse, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers (5-0), take the field.

The Volunteers dominated opening weekend play in Utah, as they scored 53 runs and allowed only eight. They hammered opponent pitching with a .424 team batting average and allowed a .137 opponent batting average.

Over the last 10 seasons, Tennessee coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly have led the softball program to an astounding 53 wins per season and coached a total of 25 All-Americans.

The list includes four All-Americans from 2012 who are still on the roster.

To combat the Volunteers offensive arsenal, Bulls coach Ken Eriksen may determine his best matchup is to use left-handed ace Sara Nevins, though he said prefers to make that decision closer to game time.

I never want to be driving home after a game and say to myself, I shouldve done this or that, Eriksen said. Once we scout the teams and I decide who matches up the best and I feel that person is ready, thats when I make my decision. Its never set.

USF may also have to face the Lady Volunteers fourth All-American junior pitcher Ellen Renfroe. The right-hander went 27-5 last season with a 1.24 Earned Run Average in 231 innings pitched.

With 13 of the Bulls 15 runs batted in by Eriksens one through five hitters, the Bulls will need more production from the back end of the batting order this weekend, especially against Tennessee.

I think you always have to look for that. We need six through nine to get on base, Eriksen said, Then we got Salvarola coming up again, and anyones in scoring position when shes at the plate.

Junior shortstop Kourtney Salvarola, shone last weekend with a home run, two doubles, three singles, three runs batted and five runs scored.

But before the showdown on Saturday afternoon, USF has business to take care of on Friday.

USF (3-1) will kick off its second weekend of play at 4:15 p.m. on Friday against North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack went 4-1 at the Florida International University season opening invitational under first-year coach Shawn Rychcik. Though its early in the season, the Wolfpack seems to have improved from their 23-31record in 2012.

USF will have to contend with premier offensive talents in NC State sophomore shortstop Renada Davis, the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in 2012, and senior outfielder Bethaney Wells.

The first pitch of the Bulls second contest on Friday will be 30 minutes after conclusion of the NC State game, as USF faces off with Coastal Carolina.

Last season, the Chanticleers tied a school record with 44 wins and won the Big South Conference before losing to North Carolina at the NCAA Regional Championship.

The Chanticleers went 2-3 in opening weekend action at the Georgia Tech-Kennesaw State Invitational.

Another player to watch is second baseman and outfielder Jazmin Daigle. The senior batted .375 for Coastal Carolina last weekend and has started 167 of the 172 games she has played in her career.

USF will play another game Saturday afternoon or evening in the semifinal round.

The match-ups are determined based on results of the first three games.

Sunday will feature a consolation game for the two teams that lose in the semifinals, and a championship game for the winners.

Right now our focus is on NC State, then well focus on Coastal Carolina, then Tennessee, Eriksen said, We cant take anybody lightly. I think thats what happened against Florida Atlantic. Our focus wasnt where it needed to be.