TAMPA, Fla. — Riley Gore had a ride to make it to Division I, but she is not planning to stop now.
The passion that the South Florida outfielder has for the game is more significant than any strategy, rival or concept.
Gore played three sports during high school — basketball, soccer and softball — but only one makes her smile. She chose softball over anything else.
“At the end, I love the game,” she said, after the Bulls’ had swept a home double header last week. “There is no other sport out there like softball. It keeps me smiling.
“There isn’t anything else I want to do when I wake up in the morning.”
Gore is averaging .200 hitting/.700 on base/.500 power at bat on her 20 appearances in 14 games, including two home runs.
Once she finished junior college in Daytona State, she had only one goal: play in Division I. Obviously, she made it.
“Many people told me ‘You are not going to make it, you are not good enough.’ I’m like ‘Keep it coming, keep it coming.’ Because you are just adding fuel to the fire,” Gore said.
That’s why Dustin Pedroia is her favourite athlete; she sees him as a mirror to overcome the critics and became great.
“Everyone told him from the start ‘You’re never going to make it’ and he said ‘You know what, watch me,’” said the outfielder. “You watch him play any time and you know he’s not playing for the name on his back, he’s playing for the Boston Red Sox, on the front.”
Like Pedroia, she does not play only for herself. Her major goal is to make softball big enough to be able to be a role model for younger girls, like basketball or soccer are right now.
“Every other sport out there is developed, and softball continues to be developed,” said the Bulls player. “You’ve got younger girls that you look at, and you like ‘You know what, I’m gonna make it to the bigger games so when you get here, it’s gonna be softball.’”
Softball will be back into the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 for the first time since 2008 and the junior dreams about wearing the national team jersey.
“Those three letters across your chest, that’s the ultimate goal … the ultimate goal,” said Gore.
Ken Eriksen is in his 23rd season as a head coach at USF while the team has made 14 NCAA appearances, and he believes Gore can have a brilliant future.
“She is on her way. She works so hard in practice, so I see a lot of good things happen for her in the future,” said the coach, after the games.