USF softball coach Ken Eriksen calls them his “ham-and-egg.”
And while it may seem odd to compare athletes to food, if you woke up everyday knowing that you have two of the best pitchers in college softball on your roster, a comparison to your favorite breakfast combo makes sense.
That’s because Bulls senior Lindsey Richardson and junior Sara Nevins provide Eriksen with a key ingredient to the USF recipe for success, one that very few college coaches have – two equally dominant pitchers.
This season, the duo has come together as a two-headed pitching monster, and it may be due to their deepened friendship.
Nevins reflected on when she first met Richardson years ago.
“I thought she was pretty cool,” she said. “But this past year, we’ve become closer than I ever thought we would be.”
Richardson said their bond began during NCAA Super Regionals last season, when Eriksen frequently switched pitchers to keep the opponent off balance.
“I think it made us feed off of each other and work together,” Richardson said, “That helped us grow closer. Now we talk all the time. If I pitch first, she feeds off of me and if she pitches first, I feed off of her. I think it’s a plus.”
The pair has combined for an 18-8 record with 236 strikeouts and 96 hits allowed in 185 and 1/3 innings so far this season.
Richardson has posted an ERA of 1.15 while Nevins checks in at 1.19, which has helped USF to a Top 5 national ranking in
USF is also one of five teams, along with Baylor, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tulsa, in the NCAA Division-I field of 335 schools that have two pitchers ranked in the Top 30 in earned run average.
But when it comes to their pitching styles, the two aren’t the same.
The obvious differences are that Nevins is left-handed and
Richardson is right-handed, and that
Nevins throws between 71-74 mph, which is rare in college softball, while Richardson throws between 66-69 mph.
But Eriksen said their pitching styles are more similar than people think.
“The similarities in their
successes are the percentage of strikes they’re throwing. They’re both aggressive in every count,” he said. “They’re both fighters.”
As far as the movement on their pitches, Eriksen said Richardson has more movement coming out of the hand, while Nevins has more late-breaking movement.
Then there’s the approach to the game.
“Nevins will not wear her
emotions on her sleeve, you don’t know if you’re up 10 or down 10,” he said. “But you’re going to know exactly how Lindsey feels all
In fact, Nevins’ demeanor has become a funny topic around the team.
In a recent episode of “iTalk with Ilaura” on gousfbulls.com, hosted by USF teammate and senior Ilaura Reeves, Nevins and Reeves acted out a sketch making light of people who have said Nevins
But Eriksen said he doesn’t mind it that way.
“Sara is tenacious when she gets in the circle,” Eriksen said. “But Lindsey is tenacious in the dugout. She gets jacked up.”
Both Eriksen and Nevins said they admire Richardson’s tenacious approach this season.
“She’s a good leader, coming out and doing really well this year,” Nevins said. “Every year she’s done really well, but now she’s showing that senior leadership.”
Since returning from a shoulder strain in the middle of the 2012 season, Richardson has posted the best earned run average, and other statistics, of her career.
She thought that she would only miss a few games, but it turned out to be a more serious injury than she initially thought.
Richardson said that during the time that she missed, a lesson was learned.
“It was five weeks of my junior season that I’ll never get back,” she said “Now I take it one pitch at a time, one batter at a time, because I know that at any moment I could get hurt and I may never pitch or play again. My playing career could be over.”
With Nevins breaking the USF career strikeout record on Sunday, she will go down as the best Bulls’ pitcher in history until someone else comes along, but Richardson has been dominant in her own right, and should finish in the Top 5 in strikeouts if she stays healthy the rest of the year.
“I think that Lindsey is one of the most underrated pitchers to come out of the state of Florida in a long time,” Eriksen said.
More outstanding pitching can be expected in the years to come as Bulls fans have another duo to look forward to when Richardson and Nevins graduate.
Current sophomore Sam Greiner and freshman Erica Nunn could be the next “ham-and egg” combo.
Greiner was the New Jersey Herald Player of the Year in high school and Nunn was an ESPN Rise
All-American, known for her bat and big left arm.
“The two youngsters are
learning from Lindsey and Sara,”
Eriksen said. “I think you’ll find that Sam is like Sara, and Erica is like Lindsey.”
Richardson and Nevins will likely step into the circle again on Wednesday and Thursday in Philadelphia during a three-game series against Big East opponent