Spartanburg, S.C. – The USC Upstate softball team will continue its magical season with its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament when it opens the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional Friday at 3:30 p.m. Central, 4:30 p.m. Eastern against Western Kentucky at Rhoads Stadium on the campus of Alabama.
Upstate enters the Tuscaloosa Regional with a 41-10 record after winning the A-Sun Tournament last weekend in Nashville, Tenn. The Spartans had to win three games in the span of 21 hours, including back-to-back games on Saturday against host Lipscomb, to claim its first A-Sun Tournament title and the league's automatic bid the to the NCAA Tournament. The softball team is the first Upstate team to advance to an NCAA Tournament since the university moved its athletics program to NCAA Division I in 2007-08.
Western Kentucky, Upstate's opening round opponent, is 41-16 on the year. The Hilltoppers went 3-2 in the Sun Belt Tournament, losing its final game to nationally-ranked South Alabama. Friday's game will be the first meeting between Upstate and WKU.
The winner of the game between Upstate and Western Kentucky will face the winner of Friday's game between defending national champion and 2013 national No. 10 seed Alabama and Jacksonville State on Saturday. The two losing teams in the first round will meet on Saturday in the first elimination game of the regional. Upstate has never faced Alabama and is 0-1 all-time against Jacksonville State, though that game was played 23 years ago in 1990.
Upstate is making its first appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament, but is no stranger to postseason NCAA Tournament play. Under head coach Chris Hawkins, Upstate made four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament from 2004-07, the final four years Upstate was in Division II. Upstate has played three teams in this year's NCAA Tournament. The Spartans lost to Kentucky, 12-8, in an 11-inning marathon at Cyrill Stadium in February and dropped an 11-0 decision at Florida in March. Upstate did claim an 8-5 victory at Georgia on April 17.
Fans can follow the action online at upstatespartans.com. Links to live stats through Gametracker, free live video courtesy of Tide TV and complete game coverage are available.