By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The USF softball team gets to continue its season in a sweet place.
The Bulls had a special regular season and kept the fun going in the NCAA Gainesville Regional, where they rolled through UCF, Florida Gulf Coast and Florida on the way to earning a trip to NCAA Super Regionals for the second time since 2006.
USF's series opponent is Hofstra and the Bulls have the luxury of walking to the main stage - USF softball stadium - for the series opener 7 p.m. Friday.
To say that they've done well there would be a huge understatement. USF (48-11) has posted a 29-2 record this season at its house that's been a softball player's dream come true since it opened in 2011.
"We played on the intramural fields and we moved over to this," said senior catcher Laura Fountain, sporting a big smile in the Bulls' home dugout. "It's fun."
The Bulls' statistics at USF softball stadium prove that a fun atmosphere has helped the program produce a ton of success. USF has outscored opponents, 133-32, at home this season with 13 shutouts to its credit. The Bulls' only losses at their place were by a 3-2 margin in eight innings against Florida on Feb. 12 and by a 2-1 margin against Fairfield on March 16.
"We don't take for granted what we have and we love playing here," freshman pitcher Sam Greiner said. "It's a great facility and we just feel really comfortable here and that helps a lot."
Love might not be a strong enough word to describe Ken Eriksen's feelings for the park. The head coach often works out of the stadium's press box during sunny afternoons and the trend hasn't stopped with him.
"It's not uncommon that I come out here around lunch time to do my work and there will be a couple of players in the batting cage looking at their computers, doing their schoolwork," Eriksen said. "It's a park and it's a very friendly environment."
Fountain described USF softball stadium as the Bulls' "playground" and she has taken full advantage of the facility's features since the doors opened.
"You just park out by the batting cage and everything is out there for us," she said. "We have music in there. You put your iPod in and you just go. Why wouldn't you want to come out and just do your own thing?"
Lots of people will be coming out to see USF do its thing Friday night in the Super Regional series opener that will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The game is sold out, which will put USF's season home attendance mark way over 12,500, with tickets only being available for Saturday's championship.
"I know it will have an impact because great players play really great in front of great crowds," Eriksen said. "You better bring your lawn chairs because the seats are going to be filled and the berms will be packed. Find a place because it's going to be a fun night."