The word for USF softball this week is aggressiveness. After getting shut out in its last game against Tulsa on Sunday, coach Ken Eriksen is looking for his team to jump out offensively as it heads to UConn for a three-game series beginning Friday.
For a team that has been averaging five runs per game for most of the season, the Bulls have been held below two in three of their past five games, something Eriksen wants to change.
“We want to take advantage of the first hittable pitch you can see instead of waiting to get into the at-bat,” Eriksen said. “Don’t approach it like a prize fight and dance around for two or three rounds to find out the opponent’s best punch. We’re the ones that have to throw the first punch.”
A prime example is senior Karla Claudio, who hit three home runs with nine RBIs in two games Saturday.
“She’s been at an all-time high confidence-wise with everything,” Eriksen said. “Her pitching is a continual work in progress and she continues to get better, but hitting for her is natural. For her, it’s just letting it go. In other words, when she sees the right pitch, she goes after it.”
Claudio has been hitting cleanup behind the power of junior Lee Ann Spivey, a lineup Eriksen said fans will continue to see.
“It sets us up for protection of our best hitter,” Eriksen said. “If you don’t have something behind her, it’s easy to pitch around her, and with hitters like (Lauren) Evans and Monica Santos now behind Karla, it makes it hard to get through the three, four, five spot of the lineup.”
In that spot, Claudio was instrumental in the Bulls’ comeback wins against Tulsa on Saturday, as they won both games after being down at least five runs.
USF scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh in Game 1 of the series to tie the game and send it to extra innings thanks to a grand slam by Claudio, but Eriksen doesn’t want to rely on one bat to win games.
As USF takes on UConn in two games Friday and another Saturday, Eriksen wants to stick with the persona that has brought the Bulls’ success all year long.
“They’ve found their identity and the identity right now is that there are no superstars on this team and everyone has to play at a high level for us to be competitive,” Eriksen said. “If you’re worrying about the credit, we’re not going to be successful.
“There’s no dogpiles for who wins MVP, but there is dogpiles for those who win championships, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”