Intensity defines USF softball's Janine Richardson
TAMPA - For everyone who followed the University of South Florida's softball evolution, for fans who endured years of watching games at the program's glorified intramural facility, for players past and present who dreamed of reaching the sport's pinnacle, it's a moment to savor. USF is two victories away from the Women's College World Series. Friday night, the Bulls (48-11) host Hofstra (41-13) to open the best-of-three NCAA Super Regionals at the two-year-old USF Softball Stadium, a venue that will be packed to the brim for a nationally televised showcase. The game already is sold out. There are reasons to smile.But you probably won't detect even the slightest grin from USF senior center fielder Janine Richardson. Especially now. "For her, every pitch is serious,'' USF coach Ken Eriksen said. "It doesn't matter if it's the Super Regionals, the Big East tournament or any old game. She practices that way, too. I think she realizes you only have so much time. It's there, then it's gone, and she doesn't want to miss any of it.'' Richardson, a former state prep champion from Auburndale High School, hasn't missed much. Tonight, she plays in her 221st career game at USF, all starts. She already has scored a program record 172 runs and collected 139 RBIs, fifth all-time. But her value to the program can't be quantified. She's a natural center fielder, covering plenty of ground, communicating well with left fielder Ashli Goff and right fielder Gina Kafalas, controlling the defensive flow. Last season, she played shortstop, due to need in the infield. She also had a few stints at catcher and first base. "Janine will do whatever we need to help the team, but I think she missed her outfield friends,'' Kafalas said. "Having her back has really solidified our outfield defense. She's a great leader. We work well together. She's always talking back there and communicating.'' Even though some of that communication is brutally efficient. "She tells you straight up how it is,'' Goff said. "She tells you the truth. Once you understand her personality, you know that she's really cool, but definitely no-nonsense.'' Richardson smiled when told that Eriksen, along with assorted USF teammates, referred to her as occasionally "intimidating.'' "Well, that's pretty much true,'' said Richardson, who is USF's second-best batter (.306) and leader in total bases (80). "I give off some intensity. I have a really intense look. I stay as focused as I possibly can. That look might be a little more serious than I want it to be, but that's just me. "It's great that we're home for the Super Regionals, but we've got business to take care of. I'm really trying to keep it in check and not let my emotions get the best of me. It has been a great ride, but I don't want us to get too hyped up on where we are instead of focusing on where we're trying to go.'' Hype isn't needed for tonight's matchup. Two of the nation's top pitchers – USF's Sara Nevins and Hofstra's Olivia Galati – will put runs at a premium. "My USF softball days are pretty much numbered,'' Richardson said. "So, I'll be totally into this. When you look at me, I'm just into the game. I'm in my own world. I just want to keep playing right until the end.''
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