SPARTANBURG, S.C. (April 6, 2012) – After finishing up a season-long eight-game homestand last weekend, the ETSU softball team now begins a 10-game road swing on Saturday evening when the Bucs head to Spartanburg, S.C. to face USC Upstate in a critical Atlantic Sun showdown. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for 4 p.m. at Cyrill Stadium.
ETSU (10-20, 0-4) got off to a rough start in conference play as three of its four A-Sun losses were one-run heartbreakers. However, the Blue and Gold hope to turn things around as the Bucs head to Spartanburg, Boone, and Jacksonville on this road trip which spans 12 days and just over 1,500 roundtrip miles.
Senior outfielder Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.) carries a five-game hitting streak into play on Saturday, while she is hitting .329 (24-73) with three doubles, two triples and 16 runs scored in her last 21 games. Martin – who is currently tied for second in the A-Sun with three triples – is three triples shy of tying former Buccaneer great Janine Sprague’s single-season ETSU record of six triples set in both 2004 and 2005. Meanwhile, as Martin is producing in the leadoff role, sophomore catcher/infielder Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.) and junior outfielder Tara Hartnett (Snellville, Ga.) have picked up their play as of late. Baird has raised her batting average over 153 points as the Ooltewah, Tenn. native is hitting .394 (13-33) with three doubles, two home runs (one grand slam), six runs scored, and 10 RBI over her last 13 games. In addition, Hartnett has posted 15 hits in her last 38 at-bats (.395), while registering a triple, four walks, six runs scored, and six RBI over her last 15 contests.
The Bucs have been snake bitten this season as nearly half of their games played are one-run affairs, but the Blue and Gold are only 4-10 in those contests. Furthermore, ETSU has either led or tied in 16 of the 20 games lost in 2012, while the Bucs have also dropped all six of their extra-inning games.
USC Upstate (29-6, 2-2) has won nine of its last 11 games and are ranked 10th in the Mid-Major Top 25 Softball Poll. The Spartans were picked to finish fourth in the Preseason A-Sun Coaches Poll and have recorded shutouts in 19 of their 29 wins this season.
After losing one of the best pitchers in the A-Sun in Morgan Childers, sophomore right-hander Hannah Alexander has done a solid job replacing the void as she is 18-2 with a 1.13 ERA (21 ER/130.0 IP) in 24 appearances (19 starts) for USC Upstate. Alexander has tossed eight shutouts, which places her eighth among NCAA Division I leaders, while her ERA ranks 23rd. At the plate, the Spartans are led by freshman Shellie Robinson’s .423 batting average, 44 hits, nine doubles, 12 home runs, 26 RBI and 37 runs scored. Like Alexander, Robinson ranks among the nation leaders in slugging percentage (11th, .875), home runs (14th), and batting average (30th).
As a team, USC Upstate ranks fifth in the country with a .335 batting average and 14th in ERA.
After taking three of the first four games in the series, the Bucs have dropped four straight to USC Upstate and trail the all-time series, 5-3. ETSU’s last win in the series was a 1-0 victory to cap off the sweep in 2009, while the Blue and Gold are 1-3 in games played in Spartanburg. Martin is 3-for-10 against the Spartan pitchers, while sophomore Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) has a 1.62 ERA in two appearances vs. USC Upstate.
Fans unable to make the trip to Spartanburg can watch the action via A-Sun.TV, while live stats will be offered on Gametracker. In addition, live updates will be posted on Twitter @ETSUAthletics.
For more information on Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.