In 2010, it was Lauren Gibson’s freshman year and the Tennessee Volunteers made the journey to the Women’s College World Series with nine freshmen on the roster.
“Even though we made it farther my senior year, my freshman year was just an amazing experience,” Gibson said. “We weren’t really expected to make it there, with nine freshmen. It was a really young team, so, just being able to make it there as an unexpected team, it was a great experience.”
Tennessee, needing just one win to clinch a spot in the finals, fell 5-2 to Arizona, ending its run.
Gibson finished her career with 245 hits, 46 homers and 216 RBIs in 242 career starts.
While playing for the Volunteers, Gibson was selected to play for Team USA from 2011-13, where she was coached by USF coach Ken Eriksen.
Gibson used her connection with Eriksen from their days with Team USA to become a graduate assistant with the Bulls.
“Being such a young class my freshmen year, I’m able to come here and help the freshmen get comfortable playing college ball, because playing in high school is so different than playing high school or summer ball,” Gibson said.
Gibson said she’ll be in a tough spot this weekend as the Bulls take on No. 13 Tennessee on Saturday during nthe Presidents Day Weekend Tournament hosted by USF.
“It’s just going to be really awkward because I’m going to be like, ‘Yeah good hit,’ but then never mind, wrong team,” Gibson said. “It will be a lot of emotion just knowing the girls on the other team that I’ve played with and the coaches obviously.”
USF went 3-2 in its opening weekend, giving the coaching staff a glimpse of what they might see out of their pitching staff, which combined for a 2.12 ERA.
“They attacked the batters a lot more. We got ahead and we challenged people last weekend, which was good,” assistant coach Monica Triner said.
The Bulls’ pitching staff has benefitted much from the play of former pitcher Sara Nevins, who dominated USF pitching for the last four years, but is now center stage to show that USF’s success wasn’t because of one player.
“They want to be that person coming in every game,” Triner said. “It kind of got overshadowed when they didn’t get to pitch a lot (last season) and now they’re going to be able to show what they can do.”
On offense, Eriksen has built this team with speed in mind. The Bulls were successful on 16 of 18 stolen-base attempts last weekend, creating extra scoring chances for the Bulls.
“We’ve gone out and recruited and looked for kids who are very athletic and who can run,” Triner said. “It’s starting to show now and it’s putting defenses in hard positions.”
USF plays a double header Friday against St. John’s and Detroit, starting at 3:45 p.m.