USC Upstate head softball coach Chris Hawkins has announced this afternoon that his program will play a 56-game schedule in 2017 that features four teams who competed in an NCAA Regional last season.
“Our 2017 schedule will be another tough one for our program,” said Hawkins, who will be coaching his 23rd season at Upstate. “We have a seasoned team and I look forward to seeing how we face the challenges. The ASUN is a tremendously deep conference, and will again be a fierce battle to see who will win the regular season and tournament championships. We fully expect that our non-conference schedule will help prepare us for the challenges during conference and postseason play.”
Upstate’s 2017 schedule will again feature a tough slate of ASUN games and a non-conference schedule against several marquee programs. The Spartans are slated to face Power 5 teams Missouri and South Carolina from the SEC, N.C. State and North Carolina out of the ACC, and Purdue from the Big Ten. The doubleheader against N.C. State will be held at Cyrill Stadium.
Four opponents on Upstate’s schedule appeared in an NCAA Regional last season with those teams being South Carolina, Missouri, James Madison and North Carolina.
The Spartans will play in five tournaments early in the season in preparation for ASUN play, and is hosting three of those tournaments. After opening the season at home with a doubleheader against Gardner-Webb on Feb. 9, Upstate travels to Charleston, S.C. for a two-day tournament hosted by Charleston Southern Feb. 11-12. The Spartans will face James Madison and Charleston Southern on Feb. 11, and Missouri and Charleston Southern on Feb. 12.
Upstate returns to Cyrill Stadium Feb. 17-19 as it hosts the USC Upstate Classic, playing a total of five games. The Spartans will welcome Campbell, Iona, Georgetown, Colgate and Presbyterian College to town. The Spartans are facing Campbell and Iona on Feb. 17, Georgetown and Colgate on Feb. 18, and Presbyterian College on Feb. 19.
Following a road doubleheader at Furman on Feb. 22, Upstate entertains Howard, Delaware State, Toledo and Western Carolina as part of the Buffalo Wild Wings Classic Feb. 24-25, beginning a string of nine straight home games. The Spartans take on Howard and Delaware State on Feb. 24, and Toledo and Western Carolina on Feb. 25. Western Carolina then remains in Spartanburg on March 1 for a midweek game with Upstate.
The Spartans host their final tournament of the season March 3-4 with the Upstate Classic as they play Radford, Youngstown State, Dayton and Canisius. The weekend tournament will see Upstate take on Radford and Youngstown State on March 3, and Dayton and Canisius on March 4.
The final tournament for the Spartans in 2017 will be the USF-Under Armour Invitational hosted by South Florida March 10-12 in Clearwater, Fla. Upstate will play five games over the course of three days beginning on March 10 against Army and Central Michigan, followed by Purdue and St. Joseph’s on March 11. The Spartans conclude play at the tournament on March 12 versus Monmouth.
Following the conclusion of tournament play, Upstate plays 11 non-conference games with five taking place at Cyrill Stadium and six on the road. The five non-conference home games consist of Ohio on March 17, N.C. State in a doubleheader on March 22, and a doubleheader against Charlotte on April 5. The six contests scheduled away from Spartanburg are South Carolina on March 15, Appalachian State in a doubleheader on March 29, North Carolina on April 12 and East Tennessee State in a doubleheader on April 18.
The Spartans will host three ASUN series at home and hits the road three times in conference play. Upstate opens league competition at home versus Lipscomb on March 25-26 before playing host to Stetson April 14-15. The Spartans close out ASUN play, and the regular season, against North Florida May 6-7. The three conference road series scheduled are Kennesaw State on April 1-2, Florida Gulf Coast on April 7-8 and Jacksonville on April 22-23.
The 2017 ASUN Tournament will be hosted by Lipscomb in Nashville, Tenn. May 10-13.
Upstate has won five conference championships in the last four years, taking the ASUN Tournament titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016, and the ASUN Regular Season championships in 2014 and 2015. The success has culminated in four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 2013-16, playing in both the Tuscaloosa Regional (2013-15) and Auburn Regional (2016).
The Spartans finished last season with a 43-15 overall record and went 11-6 in ASUN play. A total of 14 players return from last year’s team including eight starters. The team also welcome back three pitchers, including two starters, and have eight players joining the team in 2017.