Upstate Announces 2012 Softball Schedule
Spartanburg, S.C. – USC Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins begins his 18th season at the helm of the softball program and it will be a challenging one as the veteran coach will put his young Spartans up against solid regional and non-regional competition as the program announced the schedule for the 2012 season Wednesday afternoon.
Upstate will play in five tournaments to start the 2012 season, hosting four during the first four weekends of the year and traveling to Tampa, Fla., to play in South Florida's Tournament against competition from the Big East, Big Ten and ACC among others in early March. Upstate will play 16 of its first 20 games at home in Cyrill Stadium. That aspect to the schedule is something that entices Hawkins.
"I think our schedule is perfect for us this year," said Hawkins. "We will be able to play at home a lot in the beginning. With 14 new players, playing at home early will be a big help in growing them into Division I athletes."
In addition to playing in South Florida's tournament, Upstate will once again make the short trip to Athens, Ga., to take on nationally-ranked Georgia in a single game in April. The stiff competition against teams from the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big East is expected to pay dividends for the young team.
"Playing in South Florida's tournament as well as having Georgia on the schedule again will prepare us for the always tough Atlantic Sun Conference," said Hawkins.
Upstate finished the 2011 season with a 42-13 overall record and a 13-7 mark in the A-Sun. The Spartans claimed the No. 3 seed in the A-Sun Tournament, an event hosted by Upstate. Morgan Childers (Kings Mountain, N.C.) graduated after leading Upstate on the field and becoming the all-time wins leader in conference history, ending her stellar career with 113 victories.
The Spartans return a solid core of players from last year's team, including starters Janna Lewis (2B, Sr., Huntersville, N.C.), Hannah Alexander (P, So., Lexington, N.C.), Ericka Harris (C, Jr., Piedmont, S.C.), Lindsay Kelly (OF, So., Jacksonville, Fla.) and Erica Kaufman (3B, Jr., Moncks Corner, S.C.). However, the team will also rely on a deeply talented incoming recruiting class of 14 players, including MaxPreps All-American Shellie Robinson (C/OF, Fr., DeLand, Fla.) and Dana Landers (SS, Fr., Mauldin, S.C.).
Upstate opens up the season at home in the Upstate Classic (Feb. 10-12), taking on Detroit, St. Bonaventure, Ohio and Western Carolina. The following week, Youngstown State, George Mason, UNC Wilmington and Georgetown come to Cyrill Stadium for the Spartan Invitational (Feb. 17-19). Upstate will take a break from tournament play to travel to Gardner-Webb for a non-conference doubleheader on Feb. 22 before returning to play in the Upstate Tournament (Feb. 24-26). The Spartans will welcome La Salle, Liberty and Savannah State coming to town for the third tournament of the year. Upstate hits the road for a non-conference doubleheader at Furman on Feb. 29 before hosting its final tournament, the Spartan invitational (March 2-4), against Dayton, Appalachian State, Lafayette and North Carolina Central.
Upstate hits the road for its first major road trip on Spring Break, heading to Tampa, Fla., to play in South Florida's tournament March 9-11. The scheduled participating teams are Bradley, Boston University, Canisius, Central Connecticut State, ETSU, Fordham, Kennesaw State, Long Island, Northern Iowa, Penn State, Rutgers, South Florida, Temple, Virginia Tech and Wagner.
Upstate will play five A-Sun doubleheaders at home in the friendly confines of Cyrill Stadium. Upstate plays host to Mercer on March 30, Kennesaw State on March 31, ETSU on April 7, Stetson on April 20 and Florida Gulf Coast on April 21. Upstate hits the road in conference play at Jacksonville on April 13, North Florida on April 14, Lipscomb on May 4 and Belmont on May 5.
Upstate plays non-conference road doubleheaders at Western Carolina (Marc 13), North Carolina Central (March 18), Appalachian State (March 21), North Carolina A&T (March 27) and Winthrop (April 17). The Spartans travel to nationally-ranked Georgia for a single game on April 10. They play host to Charleston Southern in a non-conference doubleheader on April 4.
Upstate will play five teams which earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 with Fordham, Georgia, Jacksonville, Liberty and Penn State on, or potentially on, the schedule (depending on the release of South Florida's tournament schedule). Georgia advanced to the Super Regional before being eliminated by Baylor.