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Back to first base: A preview of the 2024 USF softball season

The Bulls received 55 votes in the AAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

A long-awaited Bulls’ softball season is less than three weeks away, with their debut game slated for Feb. 8.

South Florida (32-24, 10-7 AAC) will begin its year with its classic USF-Rawlings Invitational. It will host six teams in the five-day tournament.

After finishing third in the conference last year, the Bulls were slotted at No. 4 in the 2024 American Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

Here’s a glance at what the new season could entail.

New, difficult conference slate

USF has 27 conference games scheduled against nine different opponents. 

This new conference slate could pose a challenge since five of these competitors are new to the AAC. 

Newcomers Charlotte and North Texas were ranked No. 2 and No. 3 on the preseason poll. 

USF will start its conference play against Charlotte (35-23, 16-7 Conference USA), whom it last faced in 2005.

The 49ers made it to the NCAA Regionals last season and are one of the toughest opponents on the Bulls’ schedule.

UNT (35-22, 16-8 Conference USA) could also be a challenging team to get past. 

The Eagles made it to the final round of the conference championship before falling to then-No. 6 Middle Tennessee 3-2 in 12 innings.

UAB, FAU and UTSA, who are new to the conference, will follow suit before the AAC Tournament on May 8-11.

Unlucky runs against ranked opponents

Although the Bulls’ No. 4 rank in the preseason poll is respectable, USF will still have to face four nationally-ranked Top 25 teams, according to the NCAA D1 Softball standings

Related: Championship week: Softball, track and field, women’s golf – The Oracle 

No. 5 Washington, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 20 Florida and No. 21 Wichita State are all on the schedule this year.

USF lost all its games against ranked opponents last year with the exception of one game against then-No. 11 Texas on March 17, 4-3. 

South Florida will truly have to step up to the plate if they want to beat a nationally-ranked school.

Conference series to watch

Although most of the Bulls’ opponents are new, they will rematch some familiar foes from last season.

Related: USF softball midseason report card

USF will get a chance to play a top-ranking opponent at the end of its conference season. 

From April 12-14, USF will welcome Wichita State (44-12, 16-2 AAC) to home turf for a three-day matchup.

USF fell to then-No. 23 Shockers in 8-3, 14-0 and 3-2 games from March 31 – April 2, 2023. 

The Shockers were the regular season champions last season.

They’re projected to win again this year, according to the AAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Shockers were tabbed at No. 1 with 80 points. 

Trivelpiece is a hit-piece for USF

USF added 14 new players to the 2024 roster with the addition of 16 returners.

Senior utility Marissa Trivelpiece joins her second season as a Bull this year and has already made a name for herself in a short amount of time.

 In her singular year at South Florida, Trivelpiece has broken many records. 

Related: South Florida’s diverse set of new softball transfers – The Oracle

Making 51 starts in her 52 game appearances last year, she led the team with 40 hits, 33 RBI’s and eight home runs. 

Trivelpiece tied for seventh in doubles per game with a 25% average last season, along with a 61% slugging percentage that put her in seventh place in program history.

By the end of the season, Trivelpiece was honored with the Silver Bat Award after having a .303 batting average.

The Bulls will face Illinois at 4 p.m. and Bethune-Cookman at 6 p.m. for their season-opener on Feb. 8 at the USF Softball Stadium. Broadcast is TBA.