Spartanburg, S.C. – For the third straight year, the USC Upstate softball team will head to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for its NCAA Regional appearance. Following its win in the A-Sun Tournament championship game Saturday, the USC Upstate softball team learned where it will play in the NCAA Regional when the field for the NCAA Tournament was announced on ESPNU Sunday night. The Spartans will take part in the Tuscaloosa Regional at No. 6 national seed Alabama.
Upstate (43-8) will be the No. 3 seed in the Tuscaloosa Regional and will open play Friday at 1:30 p.m. against No. 2 seed Washington (40-15) on ESPNU. Alabama (42-12) will take on Fairfield (25-22) in the other opening round game of the regional.
“This will be a very comfortable environment for us, being back there three years in a row,” said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. “We look forward to the challenge of the competition in the regional. We can’t wait to get it started.”
The Upstate team, members of the athletic department, fans, family and friends met at Buffalo Wild Wings in Spartanburg to celebrate the Spartans’ second A-Sun Tournament title in the last three years and the program’s third consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament, and to watch the selection show.
Upstate is making its third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, each time playing in Tuscaloosa. The Spartans won the 2013 A-Sun Tournament and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Regionals. After cruising to the regular season conference championship a year ago, the Spartans earned at at-large berth to the regionals a year ago. Upstate did even better this season. After again cruising to the A-Sun regular season championship with an 18-2 league record, the Spartans won three consecutive games by outscoring its opponents 26-2 to win the A-Sun Tournament.
Upstate has won four conference titles in the last three years and five in eight seasons in the A-Sun. The Spartans have won three regular season championships in 2008, 2014 and 2015 and two A-Sun Tournament titles in 2013 and 2015.
Upstate has also set a new standard this season. The Spartans broke the program’s all-time single-season record for home runs, while Shellie Robinson broke the school’s season records for home runs and RBIs. She also tied the A-Sun’s career runs record and enters the NCAA Tournament with 216 runs. She is second all-time with 69 home runs, two shy of the conference’s all-time record. Four Spartans – Robinson, Cheyenne Griffin, Kendall Settlemyre and Dana Landers – all reached an exclusive club at Upstate as part of a nine-player group all-time to have reached 100 career hits, runs and RBIs. Hayley Reinfeld also reached 100 career hits and runs.
Upstate turned in a record number of postseason honors from the A-Sun. Eight Spartans were named to the all-conference team with Robinson, Settlemyre, Lexi Shubert, Aly Schneider and Karla Beasley earning first team honors and Griffin, Landers and Reinfeld were second team selections. Robinson was named the conference player of the year, Shubert took home pitcher of the year honors and Beasley was named the freshman of the year. Beasley was joined on the all-freshman team by Amanda Storch. Chris Hawkins earned coach of the year honors and Shubert was named the A-Sun Scholar-Athlete of the Year to give the Spartans a record 15 postseason honors from the A-Sun.
Shubert was named the A-Sun Tournament Most Valuable Player after going 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA and 24 strikeouts in helping lead the Spartans to the tournament title. She is ranked third in the nation with 33 wins and is one win shy of Upstate’s single-season school record 34 by Morgan Childers in 2010 and two shy of the A-Sun record of 35. She was joined on the all-tournament team by Robinson, Schneider and Beasley.
In addition to storming through the regular season conference schedule with an 18-2 A-Sun record, Upstate also picked up marquee non-conference wins over No. 11 Georgia, NC State and North Carolina. The win over Georgia marked the highest-ranked opponent the Spartans have beaten on the Division I level.
Upstate played in the Tuscaloosa Regional in 2013 and went 1-2 with a win over Jacksonville State and a pair of losses against Western Kentucky. Alabama was the defending national champions in 2013. Last year, the Spartans again played in the Tuscaloosa Regional and went 1-2 with a win over No. 21 South Alabama and a loss to both Alabama and South Alabama. Alabama was the national No. 2 seed and went on to finish as runner-up in the Women’s College World Series.