Feb. 12, 2008
Spartanburg, S.C. - USC Upstate opens the 2008 season at home playing host to Tusculum. The game marks the Spartans' first contest as a member of NCAA Division I and the Atlantic Sun Conference. Upstate owns a 7-0 lead in the series with the Pioneers. Tusculum has already played four games this season, splitting games in the Tusculum/Comfort Inn Classic last weekend. The Pioneers are 2-2 on the year. The doubleheader can be seen live on the internet through A-Sun.TV at http://asun.playonsports.tv/uscupstate. Live statistical updates are available through GameTracker on the official Upstate Athletics website at www.upstatespartans.com.
2007 Season Review
Upstate ended its 16-year run in NCAA Division II with its fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Spartans won a school record 47 games and finished with a 47-15 record. Upstate also found success on the conference level, finishing with a 16-4 league record and a second-place finish in the Peach Belt Conference. The Spartans were ranked in the NFCA Division II Top 25 poll throughout most of the season and received votes in the final poll.
Individually, several Upstate players received conference, regional and national honors. Vanesa Flores was named the Peach Belt Conference co-Player of the Year and received All-America, all-region and all-conference honors. Shay Slater and Heidi Gibbs joined Flores on the All-America, all-region and all-conference teams. Amber Patterson earned all-region and all-conference honors, while Emily Jeffery, no longer with the program, was named to the all-conference team.
Slater Looks To Move Up In The Record Book
Senior center fielder Shay Slater had a record-setting year in 2007, finishing with a school and Peach Belt Conference record 70 runs. As the 2008 season gets underway, her name appears numerous times, 15 in fact, on the career record book at Upstate. The Anderson, S.C., native enters the season ranked second with 158 runs and 106 stolen bases. She ranks in the top five all-time with 214 hits, 16 triples, 104 RBIs, 561 at bats, 311 total bases and nine sacrifice flies.
Rice The Only Returner In The Circle
Sophomore hurler Brittany Rice is the only pitcher on the roster to have played last season for the Spartans. Rice, from Chattooga, Tenn., was arguably the top pitcher for Upstate in 2007, finishing with a team-best 1.84 ERA with 17 wins and 136 strikeouts. Morgan Childers (Fr., Kings Mountain, N.C.) and Kayla Short (Jr., Gastonia, S.C.) are new pitchers for the Spartans in 2008.
Three Upstate players finished the 2007 season hitting better than .400 for the year. Shay Slater led the way with a .454 batting average. The mark led the Peach Belt Conference. She finished with 10 doubles, six triples and six home runs. Heidi Gibbs posted a .423 batting average with 18 doubles, two triples and two home runs. Amber Patterson hit .413 for the year, collecting a team-high 20 doubles with three home runs.
Experience And Youth, An interesting Combination
The 2008 Upstate Spartans have an interesting mix of experience and youth. Typically, a team that returns eight starters, including seven position players, does not have to battle the problem of youth and inexperience. The Spartans do return eight starters to a team that won a school record 47 wins a year ago. However, Upstate also has nine newcomers, eight of which are freshmen. Aiding in the battle of the inexperienced will be the fact that all eight freshmen have had varying degrees of success in their programs prior to entering Upstate.
Run Forest, Run
For anyone who has watched Upstate's team under the guidance of head coach Chris Hawkins, it should be no surprise that the Spartans like to run. Upstate attempted to steal 197 bases last season and were successful 176 times or 89.3 percent of the time. Shay Slater led the Peach Belt Conference with 35 stolen bases in 2007. Gibbs was second with 34, while Katie Adams was fourth with 22. Run specialist Melissa Lockey was sixth in the league with 20 stolen bases, while Amber Patterson, with 16, was seventh, placing five Spartans in the top 10 of the Peach Belt last year.
Seniors Look To End On A Strong Note
The four Upstate seniors - Katie Adams, Vanesa Flores, Tiffany Pitcher and Shay Slater - look to end their Spartan careers on a high note. Adams, Pitcher and Slater have started since their freshmen seasons and have led Upstate to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 134 wins. All four players play key roles on the team and will be looked upon to lead on and off the field in 2008.
Tusculum is no stranger to Upstate, nor is head coach Fred Gillum. Gillum, in his second season with the Pioneers, was the head coach at Mars Hill for four seasons. While with Mars Hill, Upstate routinely played the Lions. Gillum has done a strong job for the Pioneers since taking over the program in 2006. Prior to Gillum's arrival in Greeneville, Tenn., Tusculum posted an 18-32-1 record in 2006. Under the direction of Gillum, the 2007 squad finished with a 29-25 record.
Through the first four games of the season, Jennifer Turley has provided the offensive punch for Tusculum. She is hitting a team-best .417. Lynnsey Jett is second on the team with a .375 batting average, while Taylor MacDonald and Racheal Wilburn are also .300 hitters.
In the circle, Megan DuBois has made two appearances on the year, starting once and throwing in relief one time. She picked up the win over Seton Hill the last time out and owns a 0.78 ERA in 10 innings on the season.