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USF softball opens with UCF

Posted May 13, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated May 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM

The University of South Florida softball team (45-11) will meet Central Florida (39-17) in the NCAA Regional opening round on Friday in Gainesville.

USF is expected to start left-hander Sara Nevins (26-5), one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year. UCF will counter with freshman Mackenzie Audas (21-10, 1.21 ERA) of Plant City, who was the Tampa Tribune’s Hillsborough County Prep Softball Player of the Year in 2011.

The Bulls haven’t faced UCF since a loss in the 2008 regionals—also in Gainesville.

“We just haven’t scheduled them regularly in recent seasons,’’ USF coach Ken Eriksen said. “But we know them and I’m sure they know us. That’s what the magic of television can do for you.’‘

Florida (46-11), the No. 5 national seed, faces Florida Gulf Coast (37-22) in the other matchup on Friday.

The team that emerges from Gainesville will advance to the best-of-three-game Super Regional round. In 2006, USF was coming off an opening-round defeat at the Big East Conference tournament (like this season) and was sent to the Gainesville Regional (like this season). Back then, the Bulls emerged and made it to the Super Regionals against No. 1-seeded UCLA.

“You can draw some parallels between the 2006 team and this season’s team,’’ Eriksen said. “I hope there’s an identical parallel and we can win it again. We’re going to forget about what happened before this and move on. It’s a new season. That’s how you have to view it.’‘

The Bulls had a program-best 19-game winning streak, but went 7-6 down the stretch, including a 6-0 loss against DePaul in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.

“We didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish,’’ USF sophomore shortstop Kourtney Salvarola said. “But we still believe in ourselves. We have lots of potential. We believe we can beat anyone.’‘

Including the Gators.

In fact, USF did defeat the Gators 4-1, behind Nevins, in Gainesville on March 28.

“That’s a nice memory,’’ Salvarola said. “It will be nice going back to that field.’‘

“But all our attention is on the first game (UCF) right now,’’ USF senior second baseman Alexis Nowell said. “It’s so great for our senior class because we hadn’t been to a regional until now. We’re excited. But we’re thinking about the job at hand. The teams are nameless and faceless right now. We just have to play our game and do what we do and we’ll be fine.’‘

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