The voice of USF Athletics routinely puts down his radio headset and picks up the pen to share his perspective on the history of USF Athletics.
Louk has been broadcasting games for 29 years and is the resident historian in the Athletics Department hallways ... This week he looks back at the great post season for 2012 USF Softball.
By JIM LOUK
Voice of the USF Bulls
Covering a USF team in the postseason is always a special privilege, and I've had that opportunity with a number of Bulls teams. Football, of course, with six bowl games, each one unique unto itself, basketball with the first two NCAA tournaments in '90 and '92 as well as various NIT's and WNIT's, baseball in the NCAA Tournament, and men' s soccer in the NCAA Tournament are just some of the postseason broadcast assignments I've had.
As for softball, I've broadcast a number of regionals including 2006 in Gainesville when the Bulls won to advance to the Super Regional in Los Angeles. But because I was on deadline with the 10-year USF football DVD that summer, I couldn't go on to broadcast the Super Regional that year. That's always bothered me, and that's part of the reason I found this 2012 postseason run with softball so enjoyable.
We did more softball broadcasts than ever this year, and they were a joy. I learned that if you know baseball and as a result you think you know softball, you are in big trouble. It's a much different game. Working with Dot Richardson and former USF pitcher Christi Ecks on TV helped a lot, but there was a lot to learn to be able to do the game justice on play by play.
Bulls softball went 5-3 in this postseason, with six of the eight games decided by one run. As a broadcaster, regardless of sport, you hope for close games. The Bulls didn't disappoint; pretty much every game was a cliffhanger.
It began in Gainesville, and if you had sat down with pen and paper beforehand to write a script about how you wanted the regional to go, you couldn't have come up with anything better than what happened.
It started with a 1-0 win over UCF. With the bases loaded and two out in the sixth, and USF's lead looking precarious, Jessica Mouse made the play of a lifetime at third base. It summed up the season in a way; a team leader making the play at a critical time. As a broadcaster, I could already see that ball in the left field corner with two or three runs scoring. I was very fortunate to call it correctly, because I honestly thought that no one could make that catch. Sometimes you can see a great play coming and adjust your cadence to it. That play was so exceptional and came so out of the blue that I couldn't even visualize it until after the fact. The Bulls won the game, USF's Seth Leavitt caught the play on video, it landed on ESPN's SportsCenter, and we were off and running in the postseason.
After a win against Florida Gulf Coast, the Bulls were in the enviable position of needing only one win to advance, while the opponent needed two wins. It was Florida, the No. 5 team in the country, and the Gator fans were out in force.
Sara Nevins, possibly the single most unflappable USF postseason performer I've ever witnessed, pitched the Bulls to a 1-0 win and a berth in the Super Regional. Getting out of a bases loaded, nobody-out jam in the sixth was just part of the drama. Three games (the minimum), three wins, and it was on to the next level. It was literally a perfect regional.
Next the Bulls would get the winner of the Los Angeles Regional. I don't know if the players were watching the results, but the staff certainly knew that UCLA and Florida State had been knocked out. We also knew how close USF had been to hosting a regional. We knew we had a chance, and soon the word came. The Super Regional would be in Tampa.
What a sign that the program had come of age. Every seat filled. People being turned away, but choosing to sit on the grass outside the outfield wall instead of leaving. There would be national television every day. There would be a worthy opponent in Hofstra, with a pitcher that turned in one of the most courageous performances I've ever seen against a USF team in any sport. There would be three one run games, two lasting extra innings.
And by the late afternoon of Saturday May 26, the Bulls were on their way to the Women's College World Series.
The next level. The last one. Eight teams for a national championship. Alabama, Arizona State, Cal, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, USF. I admit there have been times in the postseason when I've had the "just glad to be here" feeling for our teams. But this time, looking at the roster of the eight teams still playing softball, the list looked just about right. USF belonged in that group.
As it always seems to be in softball, it was a razor thin edge in both games. The Bulls went 0-2, ending their season. The team played hard, stayed loose, had fun. I'm often struck by coach and player attitudes in softball. I don't think I've ever covered a sport where things are magnified so; where a single play, bounce, or call can decide a game or even a season. There are so many one-run games and so many where only a single run is scored. The pressure must be remarkable. But this group, these 2012 players and coaches, met that challenge, achieved to the top of their abilities, and had a blast doing it. It was remarkably fun to watch and I think it was one of the many things that made this group special.
So now what we used to call summer has become instead, the softball offseason. We have to wait until February to see another game in the USF Softball Stadium. Some key players leave, but many return, and a highly regarded recruiting class is coming in.
As for me, after 30 softball broadcasts and 10 Ken Eriksen shows, I've almost got the re-entry rules mastered. There's no holding me back now.
More importantly, there's no holding USF softball back either.
The voice of the Bulls, Jim Louk, offers his perspective of USF Athletics, both past and present.
For 29 years, Jim Louk has been the voice of USF Athletics.
Louk came to USF in 1983 as the radio play-by-play announcer for the USF men's basketball team and served as the lead voice until the conclusion of the 1996-97 season. He then made the transition to football in USF's inaugural 1997 campaign, and still serves as the team's play-by-play announcer today. Louk will come into the 2012 football season having broadcast every Bulls football game in history - a span of 177 games.
He has handled USF TV play by play broadcasts on SportsChannel, Fox Sports Florida, and Brighthouse Sports Network. His career includes over 1,500 play by play broadcasts of USF events, including football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's soccer and volleyball.
This series of articles for GoUSFBulls.com began in 2010.
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Louk is a 1979 graduate of the University of Bridgeport where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. Louk and his wife Barbara reside in Lutz. Their son Ross is a sophomore in college.