Upstate Softball Releases 2013 Schedule
Spartanburg, S.C. – USC Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins has announced the schedule for the 2013 season, one marked with marquee non-conference opponents and the new three-game A-Sun conference series schedule adopted by the league office for this season.
"This is going to be an exciting year, but also a very tough year for a number of reasons," said Hawkins, who has won 639 games in his career at Upstate and now in his 19th season at the helm of the Spartan program. "We have a talented team and have added some key pieces. But, we also have a very tough schedule, the toughest we have ever played in and out of the conference.
"We have strengthened our non-conference schedule with the hopes of not only improving our RPI, but more importantly, better preparing ourselves for the rigorous A-Sun schedule. The A-Sun is a strong conference from top to bottom and it is so difficult to win games and compete for a conference championship. That is our goal and I believe the non-conference schedule we have this year will better prepare us for success inside the A-Sun."
Prior to this year, A-Sun teams played each other in single-day doubleheaders, with several weekends consisting of playing two opponents either both on the road or both at home. Starting in 2013, though, the league has adopted a three-game conference series, meaning each team will play just one opponent during a weekend series. The schedule will be split into a doubleheader on the first day and a single game on the second day. The ETSU series will see the Buccaneers coming to Spartanburg for a doubleheader, while Upstate will travel to Johnson City, Tenn., for a single game. The teams will flip that schedule in 2014.
Upstate will face 10 teams which were ranked in the top 100 in the NCAA's final RPI ranking in 2012 (Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Kentucky, Lipscomb, North Carolina, North Carolina State, North Florida) and five that earned berths in the NCAA Tournament (Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina). A-Sun newcomer Northern Kentucky advanced to the Super Regional in the NCAA Division II Tournament last year.
In addition to a tough A-Sun slate of games, Upstate has added non-conference games against schools from the SEC and ACC, in addition to other traditional non-league rivals. Upstate will face off against Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and North Carolina State, while playing regular rivals Winthrop, Furman, Appalachian State, Western Carolina and Georgetown, among others.
Upstate will play five A-Sun series at home in Cyrill Stadium, welcoming North Florida (March 9-10), league newcomer Northern Kentucky (March 12-13), Stetson (April 6-7), East Tennessee State (April 10) and Mercer (April 27-28). The Spartans will hit the road in conference play at Jacksonville (March 22-23), Kennesaw State (March 29-30), Lipscomb (April 13-14), Florida Gulf Coast (April 20-21) and ETSU (April 24, single game).
Upstate will once again host several tournaments to begin the season. The Spartans will host the Upstate Classic Feb. 8-10, bringing in Maine, Missouri-Kansas City, N.C. Central and Western Carolina. Upstate will host the Spartan Invitational Feb. 15-17 with Bowling Green State, George Mason, George Washington, Samford and Winthrop coming to Spartanburg. Upstate will close out the spring tournament schedule by hosting 2012 NCAA Regional participant Kentucky, Georgetown, Hampton, Howard and Presbyterian in the Coke Zero Spartan Classic on Feb. 22-24.
Outside of tournament play, Upstate will host non-conference opponents Gardner-Webb (Feb. 20), Appalachian State (single game, Feb. 26), Furman (Feb. 27), Western Carolina (March 27) and Presbyterian (single game, April 3). The Spartans will hit the road to take on non-conference foes N.C. State (March 5), North Carolina (single game, March 6), UNC Wilmington (March 16), Florida (March 20) and Georgia (April 17).
Upstate returns a strong nucleus from the 2012 team that turned in a 39-13 overall record, claimed the program's first win over a top-25 team with a 3-1 victory over Syracuse (No. 23), and finished third in the A-Sun with a 12-6 league mark. Shellie Robinson (DeLand, Fla.) was named the A-Sun Freshman of the Year and was a first-team all-conference selection. She was ranked among the nation's leaders in a variety of categories. Joining Robinson on the all-conference team were first-team selection Cheyenne Griffin (Moore, S.C.) and second team pick Hannah Alexander (Lexington, N.C.). Griffin was the every day starter at first as a freshman and Alexander led the A-Sun in wins as a sophomore last year.
Upstate will return seven starting position players, including senior starting catcher Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.), one starting pitcher (Alexander) and seven key role players from last year's team. Hawkins will have to fill the void left by departing senior Janna Lewis from last year's team. The Spartans have also added five newcomers to the 2013 squad: junior college transfers Meredith Barnes (OF, College of Siskiyous) and Anna Miller (P, College of Siskiyous), as well as high school standouts Jamie Ujvari (P, Niceville, Fla.), Jessica Ujvari (C, Niceville, Fla.) and Jordan Wilson (C, Belmont, N.C.).