No ‘breather’ games for USF

Freshman first baseman Lauren Evans played strong with a .538 batting average and five runs in last week’s tournament.

Although this weekend’s opponents don’t claim a spot in the rankings, that doesn’t mean USF will prepare for them any differently than it would No.1 Florida or No. 8 Michigan.

With matchups against Illinois and Georgia Southern among others this weekend in the USF Under Armour Invitational, the Bulls know they can’t let any game slip by.

“There ain’t no ‘just throw your gloves on the field, it’s a breather’ games,” coach Ken Eriksen said at the team’s weekly media availability. “You have to be able to play the game and that’s catch and throw, run your butt off and those types of things.”

USF opened the season with four Top 25 teams in its first three tournaments, including an in-state rivalry matchup with the top-ranked Gators opening weekend.

For Eriksen, rankings aren’t what make a top-tier team, but he enjoys the competition with the top programs in the country.

“Those polls and ranks are all popularity polls,” Eriksen said. “They have nothing to do with RPI, strength of schedule or anything else. What you see is we’re playing a good schedule and will continue to play against good schedules.”

With 13 teams from last year’s NCAA tournament field, the Bulls prepared for a rough schedule, but haven’t put too much emphasis on names.

“We don’t play against the other teams with the names in the front of their chests,” Eriksen said. “We play knowing there are scholarships in the other dugout and they play just as hard as we do. The team that plays better that day is going to have an opportunity to win. By no stretch of the imagination do we think this is a breather weekend.”

Even with a tough schedule, the Bulls find themselves above .500 through their first three weekends and are looking to continue early success.

“I think you look at the past 15 games and use the positives of all of them to continue to grow,” Eriksen said. “After 15 games being 8-7 against the schedule that we’ve played, I feel phenomenal with where we’re at.”

Part of the team’s success last weekend was due to the play of freshman first basemen Lauren Evans. Evans was elected to her first AAC Honor Roll on Monday after batting .538 with five runs off seven hits in the USF Wilson Demarini Tournament.

“I just go out there and try to do the best I can for the team,” Evans said. “It was an honor (to be selected to the conference honor roll) and I’m really excited looking forward to what is to come for us.”

Evans and company will have a new ballpark to hit in this weekend after enjoying the home comfort of USF for the first three weeks.

After a doubleheader against Illinois and Georgia Southern on Friday at the USF Softball Complex, the Bulls will make their first road trip to the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater for three games to close out the weekend.

“You’re not going to get into that beautiful, spacious dugout that you’re used to,” Eriksen said regarding the change of venue. “You won’t get the convenience of walking out from the locker room to the ball field, you have to adjust. But good teams don’t worry about that kind of stuff, you just worry about once you hit the field, you play ball.”