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February 12, 2013
Opening weekend for the Bulls had its ups and downs. The Bulls went 3-1, beating No. 13 Michigan, but falling to unranked FAU. Coach Ken Eriksen said that the weekend was a learning experience for the Bulls.
"We learned a lot about our team, which was great. we learned a lot of things that we didn't know before in respect to who was going to come up in crucial situations and perform," he said, "we also learned it's a humbling game. You can have the greatest of highs and then sometimes you've got to find the energy."
While the Bulls learned about themselves we at runningthebulls.com took some notes also, and here's what we learned:
Over the weekend we saw all four of the arms on the pitching staff, and as expected they were the backbone of each game. Together they had a 0.81 ERA with two complete games, allowing eight hits, four runs. They walked only five and struck out a whopping 34 batters while holding opposing hitters to a .094 batting average.
Lindsey Richardson appeared in each game going 1-1, recording two saves and a no hitter. Sara Nevins also made her season debut, and after having a rough start allowing a two-run homer against Michigan, she settled in nicely and recorded her first win.
Bulls fans got to see freshman Erica Nunn in the start of game two on Saturday versus Samford. The talented rookie recorded her first collegiate win after pitching four shutout innings in the Bulls' victory.
In an interesting move, head coach Ken Erikson opted to start Lindsey Richard again on Sunday rather than go with Sam Greiner who had pitched a few relief innings on Saturday.
"She (Richardson) matched up really well with Florida Atlantic," he said, "they've got some big right-handed power hitters, and Lindsey spins the ball real well, and really she made one bad pitch."
Don't expect Greiner to be strictly a bullpen arm though. Coach Eriksen says she could match-up quite well with a few of the teams coming to Tampa this weekend.
During the preseason everyone was speaking highly of this freshman from Palm Coast, Fla. Spivey spent most of the weekend behind the plate and was very effective with a bat in her hands.
First, let's start with her defense. Of course, it helps when you have a pitching staff like the Bulls do, which usually hit their target and don't throw a lot of wild pitches. From what we saw this weekend Spivey is a defensively sound catcher.
What is even more impressive is the canon that is attached to her shoulder. Spivey will rocket the ball to any base and it will look completely effortless. Four base runners tried to steal on her, two made it.
On one of those successful stolen bases the ball clearly slipped away from her. Either way, a .500 putout percentage is pretty good, and as she gets more comfortable being behind the plate in collegiate softball games she will improve even more.
Perhaps what makes Spivey even more exciting to watch is her offense. She has the fourth most at-bats of any player on the team and has the third best batting average at .556. The highest BA is Morgan Litchfield who only had four at-bats, so I'm going to go ahead and bump Spivey up in the ranks.
Thus far she has contributed three RBIs (tied for first), and is 5-for-9 at the plate. As I've mentioned before, the ball explodes off of her bat. She barely missed a home run on Saturday, hitting about two inches from the top of the wall in left-center field.
Spivey is as advertised. Behind the plate she is solid plus. At the plate is could be a force to be reckoned with all season. She is a freshman, and expect her to make freshman mistakes.
Over the weekend she made a few base running mistakes (only one costly). She tends to get a little excited and overruns bases or leads off on fly balls just a bit too much. Both are easy fixes and will probably not be an issue any more after practices this week.
Be on the lookout for number 19. I am calling it already, by the end of the year she will make at least one All-Big East team.
I'm not sure if you can call this a surprise, but after week one Kourtney Salvarola is the Bulls' best offensive player.
With 10 at-bats, she leads the team (players with more than 6 at-bats) with a .600 batting average. Her slugging percentage is sitting at 1.100 after a weekend that included two doubles, a homerun, and three RBIs.
Coach Eriksen said that Salvarola is playing "All-American-like softball" right now.
In all four games Salvarola played the role of leadoff hitter and it seems to be the right fit for her because of her ability to put the ball in play to get on base and get the offense started.
Her defense has also been pretty good. As the veteran shortstop of the team, Salvarola made a major play in game one against Marshall that helped Lindsey Richardson complete her no hitter.
Salvarola is quick on her feet which gives her great range up the middle of the field. She has a strong arm, and doesn't have a problem getting the ball over to first.
It is worth noting that she did record an error on Sunday against FAU that did eventually lead to an unearned run. A hard-hit ball from Christina Martinez was scooped up by Salvarola, but one the transition from glove to throwing hand she had to double-clutch and the ball sailed over first basemen Stephanie Medina's hands.
The rest of the game for Salvarola, however, was sound.
With Courtney Kramer most likely redshirting there are four freshmen on this team that have already played a role in the season.
The aforementioned Lee Ann Spivey has been impeccable. Erica Nunn has performed well both on the mound and in the outfield in addition to serving as a designated player for a time.
Although she has only had four at-bats, Morgan Litchfield leads team batting average (.667), and she has an RBI. She was also able to give Spivey some time off Saturday when she started at catcher for one of the games, and she played well.
Monica Santos also had a few starts over the weekend and defensively she was an asset. The freshman, who has spent time on the Puerto Rican National Team, has very quick hands and can defend low to the ground.
Each freshman has shown that at any time they can be ready to play big roles for this team. As the season goes on expect to see them regularly.
Although there are many players in the Bulls' line-up who can hit, the weekend showed that the team might have a harder time scoring than we previously thought.
The offense showed up in full on opening day when the Bulls mercy ruled Marshall in five innings. It's also understandable that the Bulls wouldn't put up a lot of runs versus the No. 13 team in the country Michigan.
A 3-0 win against Samford might attract some attention because of the low scoring, but it should be taken into consideration that Coach Eriksen used that game to rotate in many different players, and starters didn't necessarily play that long.
The game that stands out is the loss to unranked FAU.
When the Bulls played FAU on Sunday the Owls were 0-3, but any team can beat anybody on any given day, right?
A sluggish Bulls team jogged onto the field, and after an opening inning of sloppy defense USF was unable to score for seven innings.
The team got six hits in the game, all of which came from four players.
What stood out the most was their inability to score runs in situations where not scoring seemed improbably.
In the fourth inning Ashli Goff led off with a single, and Stephanie Medina followed with a walk. With no outs and down by a run Kenshyra Jackson flew out to center. Goff was slow on the tag-up and was thrown out trying to advance to third.
The team did not score that inning.
Then again in the seventh an opportunity arose. Lee Ann Spivey doubled in a run with no outs. At this point FAU had scored again to lead 2-1. Stephanie Juergens came up with instructions to bunt, and in two tries could not get it down eventually striking out.
The next two batters popped out ending the game.
It is possible that Sunday was an anomaly, but Bulls fans should also remember that USF lost five senior starters last year. These were veteran presences like Jessica Mouse, Janine Richardson, Gina Kafalas, Alexis Nowell, and Laura Fountain.
Most of those names were able to come through for the team last year when they were really needed. With a slew of new faces, some fresh to college softball, it is a big question mark as to what type of offense this team can consistently produce.