USF Senior Writer Tom Zebold will give GoUSFBulls.com readers a five-part position preview heading into the week of USF's season opener at home against Marshall on Friday, Feb. 8. This week's installment covers the Bulls' ideal pitching situation that features three stars from last season's Women's College World Series run.
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls are determined to get back to the Women's College World Series and the driving force behind last season's memorable run is back in full force.
"If I was excited last year going into the season with those three quality pitchers, I'm equally if not more excited about our pitching staff this year with the addition of Eric Nunn," said Eriksen, who went 50-14 in his 16th season with the Bulls.
Nunn collected a ton of honors out of Holly Springs High School in North Carolina. The left-hander was named an ESPN High School All-American in 2012 along with becoming the Class 4A Pitcher of the Year and Tri-9 Conference Player of the Year.
"She's going to get thrown into the fire, just like the other three will, because it's a pitching staff," Eriksen said. "I have no delineation between whether you're a senior or whether you're a freshman. It doesn't matter to me. Can you get this out? Can you get this pitch over the plate? That's what we're going to go with."
Eriksen got plenty of production from his three returners last season as USF wound up ranking second in the NCAA in earned run average (1.23). Nevins became a household name by finishing third in the nation in ERA (1.12) while posting a 31-8 record. The junior was one of 11 finalists for the USA Softball National Player of the Year award and has continued to elevate her game since USF's trip to Oklahoma City.
"Nevins went and pitched this summer with the national team program and learned a lot from the catcher that she had," Eriksen said. "She can throw the offspeed pitches in any situation. She proved that to herself last year in the NCAA Regionals up in Gainesville that she can throw that changeup in crucial situation."
Richardson posted top-tier numbers (9-2, 1.32 ERA) last season despite missing time with a shoulder injury and has been instrumental in helping Nunn along this fall. The Estero, Fla., native has a 2.02 ERA in her career at USF and has racked up at least 100 strikeouts in each of her past three seasons.
"She is a legit top-10 pitcher in the country and last year before she went down before her injury, she was our No. 1 pitcher," Eriksen said. "It gets to the point now where everybody asks us, 'Who is you No. 1?' and everybody is going to say, 'That Sara Nevins is incredible,' but let me tell you something, Lindsey Richardson and Sam Greiner can throw against anybody in the country and they have. That's a nice problem for a pitching coach and for a head coach to have."
Greiner adjusted well to Division I softball as a freshman and Eriksen said best has yet to come from the Sparta, N.J. native that went 10-4 with a 1.58 ERA last season.
"I thought we gave Sam a great break-in time last year and I don't think pitchers really start to completely mature until the middle to the end of their sophomore years," Eriksen said. "If they start getting it sooner than that, then that's a bonus and I think Lindsey got it. Sara did a phenomenal job of getting it at the end of last year. I think Sam Greiner in the fall finally clicked going into her sophomore season."
Eriksen made a point of saying he has no problem throwing any of his arms into the fire at any given time after watching his Big Three from last season carry the Bulls to biggest stage in college softball. USF posted two shutouts in NCAA tournament play and gave up a total of 13 runs in eight games.
"The great part is you're having three pitchers come back that have College World Series experience," Eriksen said. "All three pitched at the World Series, all three pitched in the postseason, and that's huge because you've been to the craziest of crazy environments when it comes to softball. All three can handle it and that's a great thing."
Head back to GoUSFBulls.com next Monday for a look at USF's outfielders.