Chris Hawkins is in his 23rd season as the head coach of the USC Upstate softball program.
To say that Hawkins is synonymous with the softball program and the athletic department is an understatement. He has taken the softball program to heights never seen before and has set numerous firsts for all teams in the department. He coached the 2013 softball team to the program’s and department’s first-ever ASUN Tournament Championship and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. He coached the 2013 squad to the program’s and department’s first-ever Top 25 national ranking in a major Top 25 poll. He also became the first Upstate coach to lead a team to a No. 1 statistical ranking in the NCAA, coaching the team to the nation’s top defense to end the 2013 season. He earned even more accomplishments in 2014, leading the Spartans to a Division I era record for wins en route to earning ASUN Coach of the Year honors. In 2015, Upstate broke 64 team or school individual records, and finished in the top five nationally in home runs, slugging percentage, team batting average and fielding percentage.
Hawkins has led Upstate to four consecutive NCAA Division I Tournament appearances (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament (2004-07), the 2008 Regular Season ASUN Championship in the Spartans first season playing on the NCAA Division I level and in the ASUN, the 2013, 2015 and 2016 ASUN Tournament Championship, and the 2014 and 2015 ASUN Regular Season title. He has coached ten of Upstate’s eleven 40-win seasons in the history of the program. In all, he has coached seven All-Americans, nine Conference Player or Pitcher of the Year selections, seven Conference Freshman of the Year recipients and 66 All-Conference selections. In addition, he is one of the all-time greats to ever play baseball at the university and was inducted into the USC Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame in February of 2003.
The winningest coach in the history of the softball program with 814 victories, Hawkins reached the 800-win milestone with a 3-0 victory over Western Carolina on April 6, 2016. He has compiled an 814-333-1 record, all spent at Upstate. His 814 career victories are the most of any coach in the history of the Upstate Athletics Department. In honoring his exemplary career and for serving as an ambassador for the university, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award during the 2014 December Commencement.
Hawkins has reached the height of his coaching career the last three seasons, leading the Spartans to three straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. He did so in 2013 as the ASUN Tournament champions armed with the league’s automatic berth, while playing into the tournament as an at-large selection in 2014. Last season, Upstate won both the ASUN Regular Season and Tournament Championships.
The 2015 team saw Upstate have a school record 14 ASUN All-Conference selections, the Player of the Year (Shellie Robinson), Pitcher of the Year (Lexi Shubert) and Freshman of the Year (Karla Beasley), while Hawkins was named ASUN Coach of the Year for the second straight season. Robinson and Shubert were both selected Second Team NFCA All-Region. Robinson would then go on to be selected 23rd overall in the NPF Draft by the Akron Racers. The Spartans made their third straight trip to the Tuscaloosa Regional after capturing both the A-Sun Regular Season and Tournament Championships.
Upstate finished the 2015 season ranked in the top 25 nationally for home runs per game (3rd), slugging percentage (3rd), team batting average (4th), fielding percentage (4th), won-loss percentage (10th), scoring (12th), on-base percentage (13th), doubles per game (21st), and ERA (25th). The Spartans broke three A-Sun records with 94 home runs, a .353 team batting average and .981 fielding percentage.
Hawkins coached the 2014 squad to a Division I era record 46 wins. The Spartans claimed the ASUN Regular Season Championship with a 22-2 league mark, breaking the school’s ASUN wins record along the way. Upstate claimed the nation’s top ERA the final two weeks of the regular season and senior pitcher Anna Miller was drafted by the Pennsylvania Rebellion in the NPF Draft. Hawkins coached the A-Sun Player of the Year (Shellie Robinson), Pitcher of the Year (Miller) and Freshman of the Year (Lexi Schubert). He was named the ASUN Coach of the Year for his excellence in coaching the 2014 squad. Hawkins coached Robinson to NFCA All-America honors, while she and Miller were named NFCA All-Region. Miller was also named a Capital One First Team Academic All-American.
Hawkins led the 2013 Spartans to 17 ASUN wins, finish a half game out of first place. He coached the team to the A-Sun Tournament Championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, playing in the Tuscaloosa Regional hosted by defending national champion Alabama. He had five players earn A-Sun All-Conference honors, Shellie Robinson earned NFCA All-Region accolades and his defense finished No. 1 in the nation.
The 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons were a culmination in a steady buildup of the program since moving to Division in 2007-08. He led the team to a 34-15 record in 2008, rattling off 11 wins in the final 12 conference games to vault into a tie for the ASUN Regular Season Championship in the program’s first year playing on the Division I level. Morgan Childers was named the ASUN Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, marking the only time in conference history a player has earned the two awards in the season. Three Spartans earned All-Conference honors and four players were named to the league’s All-Freshman Team. Childers was also an NFCA Second Team All-Region selection. Upstate would have been the No. 1 seed in the ASUN Tournament had it been eligible to participate in the tournament during its transitional period.
In 2011, the Spartans won 42 games en route to the No. 3 seed in the ASUN Tournament and Morgan Childers broke the A-Sun career wins record. In 2012, Hawkins led Upstate to 39 wins and a third-place finish in the A-Sun. Three Spartans earned All-Conference honors in the ASUN along with Shellie Robinson being named the ASUN Freshman of the Year. Robinson and Cheyenne Griffin were named to the NFCA All-Region Team as well.
Hawkins led Upstate to a 29-16 mark in 2009. Two Spartans earned All-ASUN honors and Morgan Childers broke the career strikeout and single-season strikeout records at Upstate. He led the Spartans to 41 wins in 2010, the first time the program has topped the 40-win plateau on the Division I level. Upstate not only qualified for one of six spots in the ASUN Tournament in its first year of postseason eligibility, but advanced to the championship game before settling for second place.
Prior to Upstate’s move to Division 1 in 2007-08, Hawkins built a program that competed at the highest level of NCAA Division II. He guided the Spartans to four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament from 2004-07, finishing the 2007 season with a school record 47 wins and a 47-15 record. He also had five All-Conference selections in the Peach Belt and the league’s Co-Player of the Year in Vanesa Flores. He led the Spartans to a 41-18-1 record in 2006.
Hawkins coached what was arguably the best season in the Division II history of the program in 2005 as Upstate claimed a 46-15 record and advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Spartans made it to the championship game of the South Atlantic Regional before falling to eventual national runner-up Kennesaw State. Under his guidance, Krista Altom earned First Team All-America honors, four players were named All-Region and to the Regional All-Tournament Team, and two players earned All-Conference honors.
In 2004, Hawkins guided the Spartans to a 38-16 record and an appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament, his first and the program’s first since the 1992 squad advanced to the NCAA Division II Regionals. He placed three players on the South Atlantic Region team and two on the Regional All-Tournament squad.
In the final eight seasons playing on the Division II level, the Spartans had 15 players named to the Peach Belt All-Conference Team, 13 players named to the All-South Region squad, and three All-Americans.
Hawkins began his coaching career as an assistant at Upstate under Mark Cooke during the 1989 softball season. He played fast pitch softball and coordinated several fast pitch softball camps across South Carolina. He played fast pitch softball during the summers for Ehrhardt Motor Company for 11 years. The team competed in tournaments across the Southeast and in the summers of 1995-97, won the state men’s fast pitch open division championship and finished eighth in the nation.
Hawkins, who graduated from USC Upstate in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, was a member of Upstate’s first varsity baseball team in 1986. He led the NJCAA in strikeouts with 144 in 75.1 innings while at Anderson (S.C.) College in 1985. His career collegiate pitching record at Western Carolina (N.C.) University, Anderson and Upstate was 30-9 with 11 saves. Hawkins was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1985 and again by the Houston Astros in 1987; he played in the Astros system in 1988.
He was active as a coach of summer travel ball. Hawkins coached for the Carolina Crush (Orange), Palmetto Power and Carolina Elite organizations, leading various teams to state championships and top 10 finishes in national tournaments.
As interim volleyball coach in 1994, Hawkins led Upstate to a 38-4 record and a second consecutive Peach Belt Conference title.
A native of Seneca, S.C., Hawkins and his wife, Anje, live in Moore with their sons; Kyle, Brooks and Ryan.