Spartanburg, S.C. - The USC Upstate softball team, ranked 17th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 poll, will travel to Nashville, Tenn., this weekend to play its final two regular season A-Sun doubleheaders and is gunning for a spot in the upcoming A-Sun Tournament. The Spartans will face Lipscomb Friday afternoon at 4:00 pm CT and Belmont Saturday evening at 5:00 pm CT.
Kennesaw State and Florida Gulf Coast have clinched a spot in the six-team A-Sun Tournament which is being hosted by Upstate next week at Cyrill Stadium. There are six teams that are mathematically alive for one of four remaining slots in the tournament. Upstate enters the week in third place in the A-Sun standings with a 9-5 conference record. Lipscomb is fourth at 8-6 and Belmont is eighth at 5-9.
Fans can follow the action online at upstatespartans.com with links to live video and live stats for the weekend's action. The Lipscomb doubleheader will feature live video for a fee on ASun.TV, while all four games of the weekend will have live stats for free. Complete doubleheader recaps and game statistics will be available following the completion of play each day.
Upstate is 2-9 all-time against Lipscomb with all games being played since Upstate moved to the A-Sun in 2008. The Lady Bisons are on a four-game winning streak in the series with the Spartans picking up its last victory in a 3-2 win in the 2010 A-Sun Tournament. Upstate is 7-1 all-time against Belmont with all games being played since 2008. The Spartans have won six consecutive games in the series.
Spartans Battling for A-Sun Tournament Spot
With conference games being played on Thursday, by the time Upstate begins its doubleheader at Lipscomb Friday night, the Spartans will have a good idea of where they stand and what they need to do over the four games in Nashville to secure a spot in the six-team A-Sun Tournament next week. The tournament is being hosted by Upstate at Cyrill Stadium and both Kennesaw State and Florida Gulf Coast have clinched positions in the championship. Six teams are mathematically alive for the remaining four spots and Upstate enters the week third in the conference standings.
Harris Getting Streaky
Ericka Harris has been on a hot-streak at the plate lately. Not only has she raised her batting average by 19 points in the last eight games, she has been tremendously productive. She is currently on a team-best 10-game hitting streak dating back to the second game of the doubleheader against ETSU on April 7 and has reached base in 11-straight contests overall, which ranks second on the team this season.
Alexander Leads A-Sun in Wins; Nearing 200 Strikeouts
Hannah Alexander is not only the ace of the Upstate staff, she has put herself in position to compete for postseason honors in the A-Sun. She leads the A-Sun with 24 wins and ranks either second or third in five other key categories. In addition, she is approaching 200 strikeouts in 2012 and would become just the third pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season in the history of the program.
Seven Above .300
Upstate has put together a strong offensive season this year and owns a team batting average of .324. Aiding in that figure are seven Spartans who are hitting .300 or better. Shellie Robinson leads the way with a .394 batting average and is followed by Cheyenne Griffin (.387), Hayley Reinfeld (.360), Ericka Harris (.343), Janna Lewis (.336), Ashley Butler (.325) and Lindsay Kelly (.314). The top three hitters on the team are freshmen with Harris being the top upperclassman in batting average.
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.
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 lost just one game when leading after the third inning. The Spartans are 22-0 when leading after three, 27-0 when leading after four, 24-1 when leading after five and 26-0 when leading after six.
Give Us Four Runs
With a solid pitching staff and a league-best 2.03 ERA, the Spartans are nearly unbeatable when it scores four or more runs in a game. Upstate is 30-1 when scoring four or more runs a game with the only blemish being an 8-6 loss against Florida Gulf Coast (April 21).
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.
Upstate 17th 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 17th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 poll released by midmajorpoll.blogspot.com. Upstate peaked at No. 9 for two weeks in mid-April.
Upstate Tops All South Carolina Schools in RPI
For the fourth-straight week and the fifth time in six rankings, the USC Upstate softball team tops all South Carolina schools in the NCAA RPI ranking. Upstate is ranked 75th in the latest RPI report issued by the NCAA. The Spartans are the top school in the Palmetto State, a full 13 spots ahead of South Carolina, which comes in at No. 88. The Spartans and Gamecocks are the only South Carolina schools in the top 100. Coastal Carolina is third in the state with an RPI of 112 and is followed by Charleston Southern (No. 121), College of Charleston (No. 128), Furman (No. 195), Winthrop (No. 197), Presbyterian (No. 247) and South Carolina State (No. 282).
Freshman Impact Tops in Nation
When head coach Chris Hawkins started seven freshmen in the second game of the doubleheader against Stetson (April 22), it marked the most freshmen starting a single game in all of Division I this season. The Spartans have started six freshman in a handful of contests this season and have regularly had five in the lineup at the same time. However, starting seven against Stetson was a first. Prior to starting the seven, the Spartans were one of five schools in the nation to have started six freshmen. The others were Florida, Minnesota, IUPUI and IPFW.
Upstate Among Nation's Statistical Leaders
Upstate ranks eighth in all of Division I with a .324 batting average in the latest statistical ranking released by the NCAA. The Spartans are also 12th with 1.5 doubles per game, 13th with a .974 fielding percentage, 14th with a .783 winning percentage and 30th with a 2.03 ERA. Individually, Hannah Alexander ranks 16th in the nation with 24 wins and nine shutouts, and 37th with a 1.60 ERA. Shellie Robinson is 30th with 14 home runs and 27th with a .789 slugging percentage.
Spartans Tops in the A-Sun
With a week remaining in the regular season, Upstate remains one of the top statistical teams in the A-Sun. In fact, the Spartans lead all conference schools in the three main team categories with a .324 batting average, 2.03 ERA and .974 fielding percentage. Individually, Hannah Alexander leads the conference with 24 wins, while Shellie Robinson tops the league with 45 runs, a .789 slugging percentage, 12 doubles and 112 total bases. In all, the Spartans rank in the top five in 26 times.