Spartans Will Open A-Sun Tournament Against Kennesaw State
Spartanburg, S.C. - When USC Upstate opens play in its first ever A-Sun Tournament appearance Thursday, it will face a familiar foe as the Spartans will battle No. 3-seed Kennesaw State in the tournament's first game at 9:00 a.m. at Patricia Wilson Field on the campus of Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.
Upstate secured its first ever berth in the A-Sun Tournament by splitting it's doubleheader at Campbell Saturday and will own the No. 4 seed when play begins Thursday. Upstate fast-tracked the softball team into full Division I membership and the Spartans are in their first full year of eligibility for the A-Sun and NCAA Tournament. All other teams at Upstate, except for men's soccer which was also fast-tracked by the University, are winding down their third year of provisional status in NCAA Division I and will obtain full Division I status for the 2011-12 season.
Upstate and Kennesaw State have split their three doubleheaders since the Spartans moved to Division I in 2008. Upstate and Kennesaw were old rivals as members of the Peach Belt Conference in NCAA Division II. The Owls owned a 29-1 record all-time against the Spartans prior to 2008, but Upstate is even at 3-3 since.
Upstate will play a second game on Thursday with the game times depending on the outcome of first round play. If Upstate defeats Kennesaw State to open the tournament, it will play the winner of the #2 Stetson/#5 Jacksonville game (1:00 p.m.) at 8:00 p.m. Thursday night. If the Spartans lose the opening game, it will play the winner of the #1 Lipscomb/#6 Campbell (11:00 a.m.) game at 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening.
Upstate finished the regular season with a 38-13 overall record and a second straight 11-9 mark in the A-Sun. The Spartans finished tied for fourth in the A-Sun this season after finishing tied for fifth last year and claiming a share of the A-Sun regular season championship in 2008, Upstate's first year playing on the Division I level and in the conference.
Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins is in his 16th season at the helm of the Spartan program and owns 555 wins in his standout career. A member of the Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame for his career accomplishments as a member of the baseball team from 1986-87, he has won more games than any other head coach in the history of the Upstate Athletics program. Prior to moving the program to Division I in 2008, he led the Spartans to four straight NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. His teams won 40-plus games from 2005-07, including a school record 47 victories in 2007. A year later, he led Upstate to a share of the A-Sun regular season championship. This season, he coached the Spartans to a program Division I-best 38 wins.
Hawkins has a veteran team that will lead the program into its first A-Sun Tournament. The Spartans play eight upperclassmen in the starting lineup with freshman catcher Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.) and the platoon of sophomore second basemen Janna Lewis (Huntersville, N.C.) and Haley Sheehan (Graniteville, S.C.) as the only underclassmen in the lineup.
Junior hurler Morgan Childers (Kings Mountain, N.C.) is one of the top players in the A-Sun and has a record-breaking year for the Spartans in the circle. She leads the A-Sun with 31 wins and 405 strikeouts. The 405 strikeouts stand as the second most in league history behind the 437 by Nikki Myers (Florida Atlantic) in 2002. Childers also ranks among the nation's leaders in six statistical categories. She has topped 900 career strikeouts and currently ranks second all-time in the A-Sun with 940, trailing Myers' total of 1,376.
Senior centerfielder Crislyn Chewning (Willamina, Ore.) and junior leftfielder Kim Brasil (Mississauga, Ontario) are key position players for Upstate. Along with junior rightfielder Katie Zauner (Canby, Ore.), they form a potent outfield lineup. Chewning led the A-Sun in hitting over the last month and currently ranks third with a .363 batting average. She is a strong defensive player and ranks as the fifth-toughest batter to strikeout in the nation. Brasil was the everyday starter behind the plate last season, but has moved to left field to solidify the lineup. She ranks third on the team in hitting with a .321 batting average. She tops the A-Sun with 20 doubles and is just three shy of Upstate's single-season school record of 23. She ranks fifth in the nation in doubles per game. Zauner ranks second on the team with a .324 batting average and has been a steady player offensively and defensively throughout the season.
Junior Lauren Quevedo (Wellington, Fla.) has regained her power swing at the plate and tops the Spartans with nine home runs on the year. Her five homers in A-Sun play lead the conference and the first baseman is nearly flawless defensively. Senior Keri Sarratt (Gaffney, S.C.) anchors the other corner infield position. She has been one of the top defensive players in the league this season and has moved into the top 15 all-time in assists at Upstate. Junior Cheyanna Ohlrich (North Bend, Ore.) is one of the most fundamentally sound shortstops to ever play at Upstate. She is simply tremendous in the field.
Harris was one of the top high school players in all of South Carolina as a senior last year, but a torn ACL suffered during basketball season prevented her from playing her senior year at Wren High School. She worked to get back to full strength and has developed into one of the top stories on the team. Her rapid growth as a player enabled Hawkins to move Brasil to left field and solidify the lineup. She has a solid .262 batting average, nine doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI. Senior Monica Hall (Ceres, Calif.) has saved her best season for her last. She is hitting .297 and ranks second on the team with 12 doubles and third with 21 RBI. Lewis and Sheehan are both strong defensively and have improved at the plate as the season has moved along.
Complete A-Sun Tournament coverage can be found on upstatespartans.com and atwww.atlanticsun.org, the official Web site of the Atlantic Sun Conference.