USF softball’s nonconference campaign features challenging lineup

South Florida will open its 2023 campaign against Michigan on Feb. 9. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

It all starts Feb. 9 for South Florida softball at the USF Softball Stadium, where it will spend a vast majority of its time.

USF (45-16, 12-5 AAC) will host a total of 40 games at home in the 2023 season, including multiple NCAA regional competitors. The Bulls’ only away series will be at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater.

Now, the Bulls will fight for another chance after falling to Central Florida 11-0 in the AAC championship and ending their 2022 season at the Tallahassee Regional against Mississippi State.

Here is how USF’s six tournaments and midweek matchups line up for the 2023 campaign.

Opening Weekend: USF-Rawlings Invitational — Feb. 9-12

First on the Bulls’ list for opening weekend is No. 19 Michigan, who they overcame 4-1 last season in the same tournament. USF will then face five more contenders in the span of three days.

Day two is filled with Boston’s best, with both College and University filling up the Feb. 10 doubleheader for USF. The Bulls will continue their doubleheader streak the next day, taking on St. Joseph’s and Illinois State.

To finish its first tournament, USF will take on No. 11 Florida on Feb. 12, a foe the Bulls have yet to win against since 2012.

TaxAct Clearwater Invitational — Feb. 17-19

After the Bulls’ first round of matchups, they’ll take a short drive over to the Eddie C. Moore Complex on Feb. 17 to face a slate that resembles an NCAA tournament.

Kicking off the weekend, USF will first take on No. 13 Duke followed by Texas A&M on Feb. 18. What will be the Bulls’ biggest trial is their Feb. 19 doubleheader, featuring No. 2 Virginia Tech with Mississippi State just hours after.

Just like in its opening weekend, South Florida will have to make adjustments quickly and be vigilant against these powerhouses to stay competitive not only during this invitational, but the entire season.

USF Invitational — Feb. 23- 25

Following its only road series in its nonconference slate, USF will begin its home tournament frenzy after its competition against Florida Gulf Coast.

South Florida’s first two days will feel like another regional, with No. 12 Clemson on Feb. 23 and No. 15 Tennessee on Feb. 24. However, the Bulls will finish the invitational on a lighter note, with a doubleheader scheduled Feb. 25 against Michigan State and UIC.

Both the Tigers and the Vols hosted their own Regionals in 2022, with Tennessee dropping out of its own while Clemson advanced to Super Regionals.

Bulls Invitational — March 2-6

USF will take on five different teams over the course of five days.

One major difference from this scheme in comparison to the Bulls’ last two is the toughness of their opponents. Other than the USC challenge scheduled on March 4, all other teams could barely scrape the surface of a .500 season in 2022.

This series could serve as a competitive break for the Bulls after fighting to keep up with some of the best programs in the country.

USF Tournament — March 9-12

Two days after USF’s midweek doubleheader against UPenn, the Bulls will have to rally through another five games in the USF Tournament.

Out of the five, the two more notable contests will be between Big Ten contender Illinois from March 10-11 along with Northeast conference champion St. Francis on March 12.

Besides those opponents, USF will also face Penn State on March 9 and Marist on March 11.

South Florida Showdown — March 17-19

USF’s final nonconference showdown will bring the Bulls’ most intimidating match — Women’s College World Series runner-up No. 6 Texas.

Besides the two contests against the Longhorns, South Florida will also face Lehigh, Marist and Iowa.

Texas will lock horns with USF on March 17 and 19 for the first time since 2000, with the Bulls losing all five previous meetings with the Longhorns.

Midweek matches

USF’s midweek matchups don’t pose a challenge to the Bulls in comparison to their tournament, with all schools underperforming in 2022.

USF is slated for a doubleheader on Feb. 22 against the Eagles. South Florida has won its last three games against Florida Gulf Coast.

A few weeks later, Ivy League UPenn will come to town for USF’s second midweek doubleheader on March 7. South Florida’s final doubleheader will be against Jacksonville on March 15. The Bulls have historically dominated the Dolphins, winning 19 out of 21 games.