Spartanburg, S.C. - The USC Upstate softball team will open the 2012 season Friday afternoon when it plays host to the Upstate Classic softball tournament at Cyrill Stadium. Upstate opens play at 4:00 p.m. against the Detroit Titans.
The Upstate Classic is a four-team tournament that will also include Ohio and St. Bonaventure. St. Bonaventure and Ohio play each other at 2:00 p.m. in the tournament's first game, while Detroit and St. Bonaventure will close out day one of the event at 6:00 p.m. The tournament will continue with four games on Saturday and conclude with two games on Sunday. Fans can follow the action online at upstatespartans.com with live statistics for all tournament games and live video for a fee on ASun.TV for both of Sunday's Upstate games.
Upstate is coming off a standout season in 2011. The Spartans opened the year with a 25-0 start, the best in the school's Division I era and the second-best all-time, en route to a Division I era school record 42 wins. The Spartans return four starters from last year's team and added a 14-woman recruiting class dotted with standout performances from its transfer pitchers and members of the 12-person freshman class. A veteran ball club the last two seasons, Upstate will be a young team in 2012. Upstate was picked to finish fourth in the regular season in the A-Sun Preseason Coaches Poll released last month.
Detroit is coming off a 7-37 season a year ago and returns Rachel Copple, who hit .317 with seven doubles. The Titans have been picked to finish ninth in the Horizon League. Ohio has been picked to finish third in the Mid-America Conference and finished the 2011 campaign with a 26-23 record. The Bobcats return three players who hit over .280 for the season. St. Bonaventure is coming off a 13-20 season in 2011 and returns Brooke Frey, who hit .347 with 10 doubles and five home runs. The Bonnies have been picked to finish ninth in the A-10.
Spartans Picked 4th in A-Sun Preseason Poll
Despite losing six starters from last year's team that won a Division I era school record 42 games and bringing in 12 freshman to the team, Upstate was picked to finish fourth in the regular season by the A-Sun coaches in the league's preseason poll released in late-January. Jacksonville, last year's regular season and tournament champions, was picked to defend both titles again this year. Lipscomb was picked second and was followed by Florida Gulf Coast, Upstate, Kennesaw State, North Florida, Mercer, Stetson, Belmont and East Tennessee State in the poll.
With a 7-5 victory against Kennesaw State and longtime friend Scott Whitlock, Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins secured career win No. 600. He is not only the all-time winningest coach in the history of the softball program, but has won more games than any other coach in the history of the Upstate athletic department.
Lewis Coming Off Strong Year
Janna Lewis is coming off the best year of her career in 2011 and, as a senior, will be counted upon to lead the team, especially given the fact that there are 12 freshman on this year's squad. Lewis led the Spartans and ranked second in the A-Sun with a .382 batting average a year ago. She topped the club with 16 doubles and ranked second with 55 hits. She was 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts and was nearly flawless in the field, committing just one error in 95 chances as the starter at second base.
Not a Veteran Crew
While Janna Lewis (Sr., 2B), Ericka Harris (Jr., C), Hannah Alexander (So., P) and Lindsay Kelly (So., OF) are returning starters and the team returns six other letterwinners form last year's squad, the 2012 Spartans are clearly not a veteran group. Yes, Upstate has brought in Lacey Dinner as a senior transfer pitcher from UCF and Sam Poarch as a junior college pitcher from Florida State College, but the brunt of the team is made up of 12 freshman. While the freshman class is made up of talented players from top to bottom and has some strong travel ball and high school pedigrees, the team is still young and could have anywhere from 5-7 freshman in the starting lineup at any given time.
Alexander Is the Ace
Pitching in the shadow of all-time great Morgan Childers a year ago, sophomore hurler Hannah Alexander has now assumed the role as the ace of the staff in 2012. While Childers got most of the attention in the circle a year ago, Alexander put together a strong freshman campaign. She was an A-Sun All-Freshman selection after finishing the year with a 13-4 record, 1.40 ERA, seven shutouts, 106 strikeouts and a .229 opponent batting average in 119.2 innings pitched.
Harris Tops All-Time Defensive List
Junior catcher Ericka Harris has started behind the plate since her freshman season. A strong defensive catcher, she ranks first all-time in fielding percentage entering the season. She has committed just four errors in her first two seasons and owns a .995 career fielding percentage, .004 ahead of second place on the all-time list. She is also strong throwing runners out, gunning down 13 of 22 in 2011.
Robinson Earns MaxPreps All-America Honors
Shellie Robinson comes to Upstate with a strong high school and travel ball reputation, capping a standout senior season at DeLand High School by earning All-America honors from MaxPreps. Robinson, who was named the Area Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel and the Athlete of the Year by the Daytona News, earned All-America honors after hitting .595 with 17 home runs, 52 RBIs and 51 runs. She also earned Player of the Year honors from the Orlando Sentinel as a junior when she hit .571.
Freshman pitcher Hannah Alexander nearly pulled off an accomplishment no other Spartan has ever achieved, a perfect game, in game one of the doubleheader against North Carolina A&T (March 7) last year. She faced the minimum through 20 outs. Taking the count to 1-and-2, she was just one strike away from recording the program's first perfect game, but gave up a hit down the line in left, the ball hitting off the fence for the only hit of the game.
Five Spartans Earned Postseason Conference Honors in 2011
After posting a 42-13 overall record and a 13-7 mark in the A-Sun, five Spartans received recognition from the conference as Morgan Childers and Lauren Quevedo earned first team All-ASun honors and Kim Brasil was a second team selection in 2011. Hannah Alexander and Lindsay Kelly were named to the A-Sun's All-Freshman team. In 2008, the USC Upstate softball team earned seven postseason honors from the A-Sun as it played its way into a share of the regular season conference championship.
A-Sun Tournament Seeding History
Upstate has played in the last two A-Sun Tournaments, both in its first two years of eligibility in the championship, and have earned high seeds in the event. In 2010, Upstate garnered the No. 4 seed and advanced to the championship game of the tournament. In 2011, the Spartans earned the No. 3 seed and advanced to the second day.
Spartans Strong at Home
Since opening Cyrill Stadium in 2002, Upstate has been tough to beat at home. The Spartans were 24-6 in 2010 and set a school record for winning in 2009 with an 18-3 mark for an .857 winning percentage. They were 25-7 (.781) at home in 2011. Upstate is 171-47 (.784) all-time at home since 2002.
Spartans At the Top of South Carolina Schools in RPI
The state of South Carolina has nine schools that field Division I programs in softball. Upstate remains one of the elite programs in the state. In 2010, the Spartans topped all nine Palmetto State schools, coming in at No. 63. They were the only South Carolina school in the Top 100. Last year, Upstate came in as the second highest ranked school in the state at No. 95, trailing only South Carolina (82).
Upstate Gets 800th Career Win
The Upstate softball program reached a milestone when it defeated South Carolina on April 14, 2010 at Cyrill Stadium, reaching the program's 800th victory. The Spartans have now won 855 games all-time.