There are a lot of local rivalries, and a little vengeance to be had, as USF Softball heads to Gainesville for the NCAA Softball Regionals. The all-Sunshine State regional will include the Bulls, Florida Gators, UCF Knights and the Florida Gulf Coast (I had to look this up) Eagles. It's the Bulls first appearance in the NCAAs since 2008. ESPN.com says it's one of the two toughest regionals, but at least we didn't get Florida State's fate and get sent to Los Angeles.
USF, UCF and UF all received at-large bids, while FGCU won the automatic bid from the Atlantic Sun Conference. For Florida Gulf Coast, it's their first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
The Bulls, 45-11 and ranked No. 20 going into the post-season, are 1-1 vs. the host No 5. Gators, 1-0 vs. FGCU, and somehow didn't play UCF, who USF will open against on Friday at 3:30pm. The Gators gave ace starter Sara Nevins (26-4, 1.04 ERA, many sullen batters) one of her four losses back on February 12.
The Bulls and Knights will likely have a pitching duel to open up regional play, as Nevins will likely face-off against UCF's Mackenzie Audas. Audas, UCF's 5-foot-5 freshman phenom from Plant City, is 21-10 with a 1.21 ERA on the season.
As the temperature has gone up, the Bulls performance has gone down. After starting the season 39-5, the team has been lackluster down the stretch, going 6-6 and losing in the first round of the Big East Tournament to DePaul. Then again, all six of the losses were on the road in far-flung locales like Syracuse, Louisville and Storrs, and that last game, in South Bend, Ind., was a near-home game for DePaul. Let's hope the Bulls perform better closer to home in Gainesville.