Spartans Battle FGCU on Zaxby's Appreciation Night, Stetson on Senior Day
Spartanburg, S.C. - With the regular season winding down and the chase for one of six spots in the A-Sun Tournament well underway, the USC Upstate softball team plays host to Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson this weekend in a pair of doubleheaders at Cyrill Stadium. The Spartans will battle FGCU Saturday afternoon starting at 4:00 on Zaxby's Appreciation Night and Stetson on Sunday afternoon at 1:00.
Upstate will also honor four seniors who will be playing their final regular season home games at Cyrill Stadium Sunday against Stetson. Lacey Dinney, Janna Lewis, Katelyn Molkenthin and Haley Sheehan will be honored prior to the start of Sunday's doubleheader.
Upstate enters the weekend with a 34-8 overall record and a 7-3 mark in the A-Sun. The Spartans are third in the conference standings, a game back of Florida Gulf Coast and Kennesaw State, which each own 9-3 league marks. FGCU will play at ETSU Friday night and enters the weekend with a 29-12 overall mark. Stetson will play at ETSU on Saturday and enters the weekend with a 21-16 overall record and a 6-6 mark in the A-Sun. Upstate is 4-4 all-time against FGCU with each team winning all of its home games in the series. Upstate owns a 10-1 lead in the all-time series with Stetson, including an 8-1 mark since joining the A-Sun in 2008.
Fans can follow the action online at upstatespartans.com. Live video for a fee will be available through ASun.TV for the FGCU doubleheader, while live statistical updates for free will be available for all four games. Post-game recaps and game statistics will be available as well.
Upstate will honor four seniors - Lacey Dinney, Janna Lewis, Katelyn Molkenthin, Haley Sheehan - in a pregame ceremony Sunday prior to the start of the doubleheader against Stetson. All four seniors have played a role in the success of the program during their time in the program. Lewis owns the Division I record with 27 sacrifice hits and ranks third all-time. She has scored the second-most runs of any Spartan during the school's Division I era, while ranking third with 27 doubles. Molkenthin has served in a key role in Coach Hawkins' run-oriented offense and ranks third in the Division I era with 25 stolen bases and fifth with 61 runs. Dinney has been in the program for just one year, but made an immediate impact. She owns a 9-3 record with a 1.88 ERA in the circle. Sheehan has been a key middle infielder for the Spartans and has been a strong defensive player for the Spartans.
Alexander Earns A-Sun Pitcher of the Week Honors
For the second time this season and in her career, Hannah Alexander was named the A-Sun Pitcher of the Week this week. She earned the honor after pitching Upstate to three A-Sun wins last week, earning a tough 4-1 victory at Jacksonville and picking up both wins at North Florida the next day. She tossed a complete-game, 10-inning marathon in the first game against the Ospreys, then came back to pitch the last two innings of the eight-inning affair in game two.
Getting an Early Start
Scoring first in games is always a good thing, but for Upstate, it almost always ensures a win. The Spartans are 15-1 this season when scoring in the first inning, and 28-1 when scoring first overall.
Robinson a Multi-Tasker
Freshman Shellie Robinson leads the team in two multi-categories. She tops the club with nine multi-RBI games, while being tied with fellow freshman Cheyenne Griffin with 15 multi-hit outings to lead the Spartans.
Extra Innings are Okay
After not playing an extra-inning game all season long, Upstate played two in the doubleheader at North Florida (April 14). The Spartans won both games to raise its record in extra innings to 2-0 this season.
Protecting a Lead
When Upstate gains a lead, especially early in the game, it has been difficult to beat this season. The Spartans have not lost a game when leading after the third inning. The Spartans are 13-0 when leading after three, 16-0 when leading after four, 13-0 when leading after five and 14-0 when leading after six.
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.
Eight Teams Battle for Spot in A-Sun Tournament
At 3-7, Belmont is certainly not out of the playoff picture, but eight teams enter the weekend in solid position to battle for one of six spots in the A-Sun Tournament next month at Cyrill Stadium. Kennesaw State and Florida Gulf Coast stand atop the league with 9-3 records. Mercer is in eighth with a 5-7 league mark. Between the top and bottom of the teams in position for a tournament berth are five teams vying for postseason play as well. Upstate is currently third with a 7-3 record, while four teams stand .500 on the season. North Florida and Jacksonville are both 7-7, while Stetson is 6-6. Lipscomb is 5-5 and, along with Upstate, Belmont and ETSU, have played the fewest league games to this point in the season.
Upstate 12th in Mid-Major Top 25 Poll
Upstate continues to be ranked as one of the top mid-major programs in Division I softball. The Spartans are ranked 12th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 poll released by midmajorpoll.blogspot.com. Upstate moved down three spots from the previous poll following losses at 11th-ranked Georgia and Jacksonville.
Upstate Tops All South Carolina Schools in RPI
For the second straight week, Upstate sits atop the RPI standings of all nine Division I softball programs in South Carolina. The Spartans are ranked 70th in the latest report. South Carolina is second in the state at No. 77 and is followed by Coastal Carolina (104), College of Charleston (117), Charleston Southern (118), Winthrop (188), Furman (190), Presbyterian (235) and S.C. State (282).
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.
Alexander Third in Nation in Wins
Sophomore pitcher Hannah Alexander is one of the top pitchers in the nation and ranks third in the country with 23 wins on the season. She also ranks among the nation's leaders with nine shutouts (8th), a 1.32 ERA (21st) and 186 strikeouts (21st).
Upstate Among Nation's Statistical Leaders
In addition to Alexander ranking third in the nation in wins, Upstate ranks among the nation's leaders in several team categories, while freshman Shellie Robinson appears several times in the latest NCAA statistics report. Upstate ranks 10th with a .330 batting average, 11th with a .810 winning percentage, 14th with a .974 fielding percentage and 20th with a 1.86 ERA. Robinson ranks 26th with 12 home runs and 1.0 runs per game and 28th with a .792 slugging percentage.
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 .330 batting average, 1.86 ERA and .974 fielding percentage. Individually, Shellie Robinson leads the conference with 42 runs, 12 doubles, .792 slugging percentage and 103 total bases. Hannah Alexander leads the league with 23 wins and a 1.32 ERA. The Spartans rank in the top five 29 times in the different main statistical categories.
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 42 games this season, Upstate's pitchers have recorded 20 shutouts. 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.