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Thursday, Sep 18, 2014
USF Bulls

Bulls Beat: Eriksen gets milestone win No. 732

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TAMPA -

What are the odds? After all, Ken Eriksen first thought he might play basketball at a lower-level school near his hometown of Stony Brook, N.Y., before taking a flier on Robin Roberts’ baseball program at the University of South Florida.

He never expected to coach women’s softball, but was attracted by having his graduate-course work financed. When USF’s facilities lagged woefully behind its big-time peers, Eriksen tried a half-dozen times – unsuccessfully – to join another program.

It was a story that never seemed destined to happen.

But it did.

Eriksen collected his 732nd career victory – more than any other coach in any sport at USF – with the Bulls’ Tuesday afternoon 6-3 triumph at Seton Hall. He inched past former baseball coach Eddie Cardieri, who had 731 wins in 21 seasons.

Obviously, such a number doesn’t happen by accident, even though no one saw it coming when Eriksen became the softball program’s head coach in 1997.

It’s more than a tip of the cap to longevity. Eriksen long ago was recognized as one of the best in his sport. With USA Softball coaching credentials, he has clout. The Bulls made the Women’s College World Series last season. And after a slow start, the Bulls (38-16, 16-2) are rolling once again.

The Bulls complete regular-season play this weekend with a home three-game set against Syracuse – a double-header Saturday at 1 p.m. and single game Sunday at 11 a.m. On May 9-11, USF will host the Big East softball tournament, which awards an automatic NCAA tournament bid to its champion.

Baseball builds its case Lelo Prado’s baseball team (26-15, 10-2 Big East) has positioned itself to contend for an at-large bid to the NCAA regionals, where the Bulls haven’t played since 2002.

The Bulls saw their 12-game winning streak end with Tuesday night’s 12-1 loss at Florida. There are 15 regular-season games remaining before the May 22-26 Big East Tournament at Clearwater.

USF, which captured six one-run games during the winning streak, begins a home three-game series against St. John’s on Friday night at 7. The Bulls lead the Big East over Pittsburgh (9-3) and Louisville (8-4).

Bulls bits Andy Hipsher, a member of Stan Heath’s men’s basketball staff for four seasons, has become associate head coach at Texas-Pan American, where his father, Dan Hipsher, is the first-year head coach. Dan Hipsher, formerly an assistant coach at Alabama, was Heath’s right-hand man from 2007-09.

The football team had no players taken in last year’s NFL draft. DT Cory Grissom and CB Kayvon Webster are decent bets to be selected this time, probably in Saturday’s late rounds. Meanwhile, LB Sam Barrington and QB B.J. Daniels are among the players who almost certainly will be signed as post-draft free-agents.

Track and field freshman Matthew O’Neal, who set a school record in the outdoor triple jump (52-10) at the LSU Alumni Gold Meet, was named the Big East Field Athlete of the Week. … Women’s tennis finished as Big East runner-up, losing 4-1 against Notre Dame in the final, while men’s tennis took third in the conference after rallying past Marquette 4-3 in the consolation match.


jjohnston@tampatrib.com

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