In two weeks, USF softball will open its campaign against Michigan in the USF-Rawlings Invitational without former pitcher Georgina Corrick in the circle.
Corrick was South Florida’s ace since 2018, pitching 985.2 innings for the Bulls with a career ERA of 1.04. She was the backbone of the program, but now a new legacy will blossom in the 2023 season.
Coach Ken Eriksen knows that not having Corrick in the circle will be a big change, but he said that doesn’t scare him.
“The last four years we’ve relied on Georgina Corrick, and now we’re A.C. – after Corrick. How do you attack this season with a different philosophy?” Eriksen said.
“Probably with a pitching staff, more athleticism all the way down the lineup and you might see us run 15, 16 players out there in a ballgame and so it’d be like basketball, except we don’t have any TV timeouts. So you’ll have to keep up with the lineup.”
New Bulls on the roster will have to carry the torch known as South Florida’s strong pitching reputation.
One particular arm that stands out from the rest is senior pitcher Gabriella Nori. Transferring from Lehigh, the lefty pitched 132.2 innings and 121 strikeouts for the Mountain Hawks.
“We did pick up a nice transfer Gabriella Nori. She’s a tall guy that got Lehigh to the regionals last year, and I think in my opinion for the regional finals against Washington,” Eriksen said.
“Having Nori with that great experience gives us a great transition to find out for another year who’s going to continue to develop, so I’m feeling pretty good with that aspect of it.”
Pitching is not the only area where the team is feeling confident.
USF softball will bring 20 athletes back onto the field from the 2022 season. In that group is redshirt senior outfielder Meghan Sheehan, who played in 59 matches for the Bulls last year.
Sheehan recorded a .293 batting average with 30 RBI, and now serves a leadership role within the program. One thing she pointed out about this new legacy of players is their vigor.
“I think probably our grit. We never give up. And our athleticism, there are girls out there making plays that I’ve never seen girls make before so it’s just really exciting,” Sheehan said.
Accompanying Sheehan in the outfield is redshirt junior Jordyn Kadlub and senior Emilee Hanlon, who both made contributions on the field in 2022. Kadlub and Hanlon both posted perfecting fielding percentages last season.
When it comes to the outfield, there is no doubt in Sheehan’s mind that they will succeed no matter who steps onto the grass.
“I could talk about them forever. That’s my favorite group of girls. There’s seven of us out there, you can put any combination of the three of us out there and it’s going to be coverage, diving plays, amazing throws, we just have faith in each other,” Sheehan said.
“We joke around like nobody’s business. All seven of us have the same sense of humor. We always have a blast together. It’s awesome.”
Another skill that is boosting the Bulls is their speed. In Tuesday’s conference, both Eriksen and senior infielder Megan Pierro capitalized on how this trait would be vital for the team.
“I think one of our best aspects through our lineup right now is our speed. We have a lot of speedy girls that are coming back and especially a lot of new and incoming freshmen,” Pierro said.
When looking at their roster, the Bulls’ speed isn’t their only notable feature.
Words like “triple threat” and “quadruple threat” were thrown around while Eriksen spoke of his experienced seniors on Tuesday.
Eriksen said one consistent strength the team has is that no opponent they face will ever play the same team.
“If you play us, you can’t play us one way. I think that lends itself to having the defense move laterally a little bit, and when you have speed like we do right now it’s gonna be really tough to just play us one way,” Eriksen said. “Power, speed and pretty good consistency on barrel control. So I like what I see.”
With all this talent shining through the roster, USF’s next step is to continue their consistent postseason behaviors and make it to the Women’s College World Series.
South Florida’s hefty schedule includes 12 games against the top 20 challengers.
Eriksen said all he wants now is the biggest title known in NCAA softball.
“It lends itself to what we’re trying to do, and that’s winning a national championship. If we’re not facing the best pitching throughout the year, you go up in the postseason, you’re not prepared,” Eriksen said. “Our postseason record has been pretty good over the last however many years and it’s just because we’re challenging them during the year.
“Nothing surprised us, and you don’t want to go to postseason being surprised. We would love to win our schedule. Yes, we’d love to win a conference championship along the way, but we’re putting schedules out there to get to Oklahoma City every year.”