Spartanburg, S.C. – The USC Upstate softball team begins its 2017 season this week starting on Thursday afternoon when it hosts the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs in a doubleheader at 2 p.m. from Cyrill Stadium. The Spartans then travel to Charleston, S.C. this weekend to compete in the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational hosted by Charleston Southern.
Following the season opener on Thursday, Upstate is scheduled to play James Madison, Charleston Southern and Missouri at the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational. The Spartans will play James Madison at 9 a.m. and Charleston Southern at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, and Missouri at 1 p.m. and Charleston Southern at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Upstate finished last season with a 43-15 overall record and 11-6 mark in ASUN play. The Spartans captured their third ASUN Tournament title and sixth overall (2008, 2014 and 2015 ASUN Regular Season Championship) in nine years. Upstate also advanced to an NCAA Regional for the fourth consecutive season and picked up one win after defeating Oregon State 5-2. The team competed in the Auburn, Ala. Regional, which was hosted by College World Series runner-up Auburn.
Head coach Chris Hawkins, who is entering his 23rd season at Upstate and has won 814 games during his career, returns 14 letterwinners from last year's team highlighted by eight starters and two starting pitchers. Five of the eight returning starters received postseason recognition from the ASUN in Holly McKinnon, Ryan Rector, Brittany Case, Megan Obier and Ansley Gilstrap. Obier and Case were also named ASUN Preseason All-Conference this year, and Obier shared Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Along with the eight returning position starters and two starting pitchers, the Spartans also welcome eight freshmen to the 2017 roster in Erin Hill, Trish Webb, Blakely Burch, Kourtney Linn, Selice Daley, Alicia Dorgan, Logan Hill and Kaylyn DeVaney.
Upstate and Gardner-Webb are meeting for the 43rd and 44th times in program history with the Spartans holding a 40-2 lead in the all-time series. Upstate also leads Charleston Southern 17-3 and James Madison 1-0. The Spartans are facing Missouri for the first time in program history.
Fans can follow the action on www.upstatespartans.com via live stats. The doubleheader on Thursday is being streamed on ASUN.TV, while Saturday's game at Charleston Southern will be shown on the Big South Network. Updates will also be posted on the Upstate softball Twitter page (@UpstateSoftball).
The Spartans return home next weekend to host Campbell, Iona, Georgetown, Colgate and Presbyterian College as part of the three-day USC Upstate Classic.
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