Bulls’ Rano bet on herself with walk-on success

USF outfielders journey anything but straightforward

Alyssa Rano of the 2023 USF Bulls softball team
Alyssa Rano gets some practice in on a Wednesday afternoon (Jake Schulz/Toronto Observer) 

Alyssa Rano’s journey to becoming a vital contributor to the University of South Florida’s softball team this season was anything but straightforward. 

After being heavily recruited in 2018, Rano committed to a D1 scholarship at Florida Gulf Coast University as a pitcher.

However, her time at FGCU did not go as planned.

“After I committed, I had an injury. I was out for awhile,” said Rano at practice this week. “I went through a lot of mental struggles. There was just a lot of doubt that I had about playing.”

Rano only played three games for FGCU.

“The coach and I talked, and we decided it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to pitch anymore. So, I started working on playing outfield.”

After her stint with FGCU, Rano switched her position, and transferred to St. Petersburg College to work on other aspects of her game. 

She left after the season. 

“I would say it’s the biggest failure that I’ve had in my life with softball,” she reflected. “It was my worst fear, failing when you get to college because that’s the dream. That’s where you want to be. Once I hit my lowest point, I think that’s when I realized that this is still a game I love.”

Rano ended up at USF, where she decided to try-out for their softball team as a walk-on.

Rano practicing her hitting (Jake Schulz/Toronto Observer)

“I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I thought about quitting softball, honestly…But I came in contact with a couple of coaches that I know who knew coach Eriksen. They reached out to him for me and were like ‘Why don’t you just try and walk on [and] see how it works out?’ 

“I was like ‘Whatever, just one last shot. We’ll just throw everything I have at it and see how it goes.’”

After her tryout, Rano waited two days for the decision, a process in which she called ‘overwhelming’.

“Waiting for Coach to respond … I was just dying on the inside. Even though I had nothing to lose, this opportunity meant a lot to me. 

“So, once I finally got that call, I don’t even know if he knows this, but I started crying on the phone. I was just so excited.” Rano said, laughing.

Coach Ken Eriksen knew the Seminole, Florida native would be a positive addition to the team, but has been blown away by her contribution in a short amount of time already for the Bulls.

“Her window as a walk-on is a lot smaller than a recruited student athlete, so she had to come in and perform. We knew who Alyssa was prior to [her tryout], and we knew that she was going to be valuable; we just didn’t realize she was going to be as valuable as early as she is.

“She’s a battler. She’s done a great job and she’s so valuable to our team.” said Eriksen.

With 10 hits in 19 at bats through her first 14 games so far this season, Rano is hitting a monster .737 slugging percentage, with two triples and zero fielding errors. 

She reflected on the journey, believing that falling from failure to betting on herself sparked a new perspective on life for her.

“Everybody can say what you want, and people can see you how they want. But in reality, you’re the one who knows yourself the best. You need to trust yourself and just know that you know where you belong.

“It doesn’t matter what people say about you. You know what you can do, and taking all your effort and putting it into that instead of focusing on what other people say, and you’ll be pretty successful.”

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Posted: Mar 22 2023 8:24 pm
Filed under: Amateur College NCAA Sports