Spartanburg, S.C. - The USC Upstate softball team will take its 4-2 A-Sun record on the road this weekend when it travels to Jacksonville, Fla., to take on Jacksonville and North Florida in a pair of key A-Sun doubleheaders Friday and Saturday. The Spartans will take on Jacksonville Friday evening starting at 5:00 and will play North Florida Saturday afternoon at 1:00.
Upstate enters the weekend with a 31-7 overall record. The Spartans dropped a 7-3 decision Tuesday night at 11th-ranked Georgia after sweeping East Tennessee State last Saturday. Jacksonville enters the weekend with a 23-18 overall record and a 4-4 mark in the A-Sun. North Florida enters the weekend with a 24-19 overall record and a 5-5 record in the A-Sun.
Upstate is 5-4 all-time against Jacksonville with all games played since Upstate moved to the A-Sun in 2008. The Spartans, though, are just 1-4 in the last four meetings after winning four-straight to open the series. Upstate will renew its rivalry with North Florida on Saturday, a rivalry which dates back to 1998. The Ospreys own a 16-12 lead in the all-time series, though Upstate is 7-1 against UNF since moving to the A-Sun in 2008. The Spartans swept the doubleheader against the Ospreys last season in Spartanburg.
Spartan fans can follow the action online this weekend. The Jacksonville doubleheader will be streamed over the internet for a fee on ASun.TV. Live stats will be offered for both the Jacksonville and North Florida doubleheaders, though video will not be offered for Saturday's games against the Ospreys. Links to all video and live stats can be accessed at upstatespartans.com.
When Upstate plays at Jacksonville and North Florida this weekend, it will be a homecoming for a few Spartans. Lindsay Kelly, Maddison Kieffer and Sam Poarch either reside in or near the River City.
10 K's a Rarity
When Upstate traveled to Athens, Ga., to take on 11th-ranked Georgia (April 10), the Lady Bulldogs struck out 10 Spartan batters. For Upstate to strikeout that many times is a rarity. The last time Upstate struck out 10 times in a game was March 12, 2011 when 10 Spartans went down on strikes at No. 5 Washington. Outside of nationally-ranked teams, Upstate has struck out 10 or more times just five times since joining Division I in 2008. On the flip-side, Upstate pitchers have struck out 10 or more opponent batters 74 times since 2008.
Battle for Postseason Play Getting Hairy
Just two weekends into the A-Sun season and the battle for one of six spots into the A-Sun Tournament is shaping up to be a fierce one. Kennesaw State owns a 7-3 league mark and sits atop the conference standings, having played at least two more conference games than everyone else. Behind the Owls, though, is a logjam of teams. There are eight teams that have won at least three conference games and none that have won more than five. In all, nine of the 10 league schools are currently in the hunt for one of the six positions in the tournament which will be hosted by Upstate for the second-straight year at Cyrill Stadium.
Upstate Moves to Ninth in Mid-Major Top 25 Poll
After posting three wins last week, Upstate has moved up one spot to ninth in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 poll released by midmajorpoll.blogspot.com. The Spartans claimed a win over Charleston Southern last Wednesday and swept ETSU in an A-Sun doubleheader last Saturday to improve to 31-6 on the year.
Upstate Tops All South Carolina Schools in RPI
With three wins last week, Upstate moved back atop the RPI standings of all nine Division I softball programs in South Carolina. The Spartans are ranked 75th in the latest report. South Carolina is second in the state at No. 80 and is followed by Coastal Carolina (87), College of Charleston (121), Charleston Southern (127), Winthrop (182), Furman (198), Presbyterian (232) and S.C. State (286).
Freshman Impact Tops in Nation
To have as many as six freshmen in the starting lineup at one time, which Upstate has had four times this season, is certainly a rarity in college softball. The Spartans are one of five schools in the nation to have started six freshmen. The others are Florida, Minnesota, IUPUI and IPFW. The Spartans have started five freshmen on 31 occasions and four twice.
Senior pitcher Lacey Dinney has been sidelined with a stress fracture in her pitching elbow. She will be out indefinitely, though a return has not been ruled out later in the season. Dinney has been a solid No. 2 pitcher for Upstate. She currently stands 9-3 with a 1.88 ERA, 98 strikeouts and four shutouts in 78 innings pitched.
Spartans Tops in the A-Sun
As the third month of the season begins, Upstate continues to remain one of the top teams in the A-Sun in the league's latest statistical leaders report. The Spartans lead all conference squads in the three main team categories, topping the A-Sun with a .334 batting average, 1.65 ERA and .977 fielding percentage. Individually, Shellie Robinson leads the conference with 12 home runs, 39 runs, 11 doubles, .845 slugging percentage and 98 total bases. Hannah Alexander leads the league with 20 wins and a 1.44 ERA. The Spartans rank in the top five 26 times in the different main statistical categories.
Upstate Among Nation's Statistical Leaders
When the NCAA released its national statistical report Monday, Upstate found itself among the nation's leaders in several statistical categories. The Spartans ranked in the top 20 in six team categories and in the top 50 in 14 individual categories. As a team, Upstate ranked seventh in the nation with a .334 batting average, ninth with a .977 fielding percentage, 11th with a 1.49 ERA, 12th with a .838 winning percentage, 14th with 1.81 stolen bases per game and 19th with 1.46 doubles per game.
Individually, Hannah Alexander ranked fifth in the nation with 20 wins. She was fourth with nine shutouts, 13th with a 1.14 ERA, 20th with 1.19 walks allowed per game, 26th with 160 strikeouts and 45th with 7.9 strikeouts per game. Shellie Robinson ranked 15th with a .857 slugging percentage, 18th with 12 home runs, 24th with three sacrifice flies, 25th with 0.32 home runs per game, 27th with 1.03 runs per game and 44th with 0.3 doubles per game. Lindsey Greeson was 37th with 0.52 stolen bases per game.
With its doubleheader sweep of ETSU (April 7), Upstate reached 30 wins for the third-straight year. It also marks the eighth time in the last nine seasons that Upstate has reached 30 wins. The only time the Spartans have failed to win 30 games in the last nine years was in 2009 when Upstate won 29. The Spartans reached the 40-win mark in each of the last two seasons.
Through 38 games this season, Upstate's pitchers have recorded 20 shutouts. In fact, Upstate registered 13 shutouts in the first 14 games of the season. Hannah Alexander tops the team with nine solo shutouts, while Lacey Dinney has four. The Spartans have combined for seven shutouts on the year.
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 190-50 (.792) all-time at home since 2002.
Alexander Upping the Strikeout Totals
Hannah Alexander turned in a solid freshman campaign in 2011 and finished the year with 106 strikeouts in 119.2 innings pitched. She has improved her strikeout totals through the first 38 games of this season and has surpassed her total form a year ago, standing at 166 in 145.1 innings.