The USC Upstate softball team will open play in the A-Sun Championship Thursday, May 7 at 12:30 p.m. in Fort Myers, Fla., and it will do so as the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Spartans will attempt to win their second tournament championship in the last three seasons and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The A-Sun Tournament is being hosted by Florida Gulf Coast at the FGCU Softball Complex May 6-9. Upstate enters the A-Sun Tournament as the No. 1 seed for the second consecutive season. The Spartans cruised to the regular season championship with an 18-2 record and hopes to improve on its performance from a season ago when the Spartans went 1-2 in the tournament before receiving an at-large berth to the NCAA Regionals.
“I would really like for us to be solid in what we do. We need to play good defense, get solid pitching and have a lot of energy on everything we do. If we do that, I think we have a good chance to have success. Having 10 days between playing games (Upstate last played in April 26) may cause us to be a little rusty, so I hope we shake off that rust quickly and play to the level we are capable of playing. This tournament is always difficult, but we look forward to getting it started and seeing what will happen,” commented Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins.
Upstate also cruised to the regular season championship with a 22-2 record last year. The Spartans won the A-Sun Tournament title in 2013 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The Spartans have won three conference championships in the last three years (two regular season and one tournament). Armed with a No. 40 RPI and wins over #11 Georgia, NC State and North Carolina, the Spartans hope to have done enough to earn an at-large berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament in the event Upstate doesn’t come home with the A-Sun Tournament crown.
As one of the top-two seeds in the tournament, Upstate owns a first round bye and will open play in the A-Sun Tournament against the winner of the game between #4 North Florida and #5 Jacksonville, which is being played Wednesday at 3 p.m. The A-Sun Tournament field is made up of #1 Upstate, #2 Lipscomb, #3 Kennesaw State, #4 North Florida, #5 Jacksonville and #6 Stetson. The Spartans are 12-2 this season against the A-Sun Tournament teams with three-game sweeps over Kennesaw State, North Florida and Stetson.
Fans can follow the action at upstatespartans.com with links to the A-Sun’s coverage of the A-Sun Championship, including live stats and ESPN3 for all games of the tournament. Complete postgame coverage will also be available.