By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
NORMAN, Okla. - The USF softball team came up on the short end in its Women's College World Series debut but that certainly hasn't kept the Bulls down.
Friday's practice at the Oklahoma Sooners' home stadium was filled with smiles, laughs, fun team bonding exercises and plenty of great preparation for Saturday's meeting with LSU at noon (ET).
"We just want to come out, get a few swings in and just kind of move on," said catcher Laura Fountain. "We forgot about yesterday and we're looking forward to a new day. Tomorrow will be better."
USF lost to Oklahoma, 5-1, Thursday after taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Kourtney Salvarola in front of a sold-out crowd at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
"We got to come out and get to play in that big stadium with all those people," Salvarola said. "I think now that we have that out of the way we don't have any reasons to not do well. I think we'll come out ready to play."
Part of the reason the Bulls are so upbeat is because they've been in a situation much like this one before. USF dropped the first game of its Super Regionals series with Hofstra last Friday before booking a trip to the WCWS with two wins the next day in Tampa.
"We don't give up and that's what I love about our team. We're resilient," Fountain said. "As long as we keep doing the little things and keep our pitching on top of its game we'll be alright."
Despite having a loss, the Bulls are staying positive because they know anything can happen with the season being down to just eight teams. USF isn't content with just getting to this point and hopes Saturday will springboard it to much more success in the WCWS.
"I think it's a great opportunity to be here, but as we always say we're not just here to be happy to be here," Salvarola said. "I think it's going to be exciting to come out and have the opportunity to get that 'W.' I think we're all working really hard to do that."
MOUSE TO FACE A VERY FAMILIAR FOE
USF's Jessica Mouse knows a ton about LSU because she's one year removed from being a Tiger, which makes Saturday's game a pretty ironic situation for the third baseman.
"I was trying to tell my teammates on USF earlier that when you're at a program for four years, they became my sisters. You go through struggles, you play games, you condition, you do all that kind of stuff. So, of course, you still love them," Mouse said.
Mouse will check her feelings at the door for Saturday's game and she knows her former teammates will be doing the same as the programs face a must-win situation.
"When it's all said and done, I'm still going to be best friends with some of them and it is what it is," Mouse said. "I'm so excited that they're here and I am fortunate enough to be an alum of both schools. I'm excited."
Fortunate is a word USF players and coaches use to describe their special season with Mouse as a Bull.
"She's one of those coach's dreams that comes around a few times in a lifetime. I was fortunate enough that I was there at the right place," USF head coach Ken Eriksen said.
Eriksen was around his phone at the right time when he received a call to inform him that Mouse was interested in playing her final collegiate season of softball in front of her family and friends in hometown Tampa.
"At that point when I put down the phone I said we have a chance right now," he said.
Eriksen was referring to the potential of USF having a huge season and Mouse has played a major factor in it coming to fruition. She's knocked in 28 runs heading into Saturday's game and was a hit in Thursday's WCWS opener when she connected for a double off national player of the year Keilani Ricketts. Mouse also set the stage for USF's score in the fourth when she reached on an error that very well could have been a single.
"You're not going to be able to have something as successful as we have without people like that. She was the middle part of the jigsaw puzzle for us," Eriksen said.