In 2019, USF softball showed why it was so good at pitching. The Bulls led the AAC in strikeouts (379) and had the third best ERA in the conference (2.10).
Defensively, the Bulls were sound.
But the bats weren’t exactly making contact. USF’s batting average was bottom of the barrel in the conference play (.245).
The Bulls also struggled to produce at the plate — they ranked third last in league slugging percentage (.317).
“Last year, I don’t think our numbers reflected what we could really do,” interim coach Jessica Moore said. “I think at some point we kind of dug ourselves into a little bit of a mental struggle.
“We were never really worried about it. It was just trying to get them on the right track.”
And they will get to test themselves tonight at 6:30, when Bulls coach Ken Eriksen, who is on leave, brings his U.S. Olympic team to the USF Softball Stadium for an exhibition game as part of the national team’s “Stand Beside Her” tour.
There was quite a bit of development for the Bulls over the fall and the players have shown growth, according to Moore.
“Their fall progressions and their ballplayer development has really shown, and I think they’re owning their stuff a little bit more,” Moore said. “They’re not looking at us as a coaching staff as just, ‘Please help me, I’m struggling.’ We really like what they’re doing.”
USF also lost some of its best hitters, including Macy Cook and Lindsey Devitt, who were first (42) and third (21) in RBIs last season, respectively.
This season, however, USF has significantly bolstered its hitting power, according to senior outfielder AnaMarie Bruni.
“We are a very strong hitting team,”said Bruni, who is the team’s leading returner in RBIs (17). “Everybody’s getting the barrel out front, making contact, having intent with every swing.
“We have a lot of freshmen coming up that can have a great bat and even some returners are improving so much from last year.”
Playing to the team’s overall strengths is the name of the game. Expect more extra-base hits, according to Moore.
“We’ve got a good balance,” she said. “We’ve got the ones that are going to be able to drive the ball, we’re more of a gap-to-gap hitting team. … You’re probably going to see a lot more extra-base hits.”
The bottom line is players — new and returning — have improved at the plate.
And one player is also preparing to swing the bat a bit more this season.
The Bulls’ ace, junior Georgina Corrick, might be the newest slugger.
“Everyone loves to go out there and swing a bat.
“I hit a lot in high school, then I got the chance to hit internationally,” Corrick said. “Last year I was a little inhibited because of my knee surgery.”
But the real fun of batting is known all too well, according to Corrick.
“I just like to hit dingers,” she joked.