CHARLESTON, S.C. - A trio of home tournaments await the Charleston Southern softball team in 2014 as head coach Shane Winkler released the Bucs spring schedule on Wednesday afternoon.
"I am very excited about this year's schedule. Every season we challenge ourselves with games against some of the top programs and conferences in the country and this year is no different," commented Winkler on the outlook of this year's schedule. "By playing games against ACC, SEC, PAC 12 and other top conferences we not only better prepare ourselves for Big South play, but we get a firsthand look at where we are planning to take our program. NCAA Regionals are played some of the same stadiums that we play in the preseason and postseason play is always our goal."
Charleston Southern will host 31 of their 56 scheduled games inside the friendly confines of the Buccaneer Softball Field, while making trips from coast to coast in playing at the Unconquered Classic hosted by Florida State, as well as the UCLA/Cal State Northridge Invitational during Spring Break.
"We've been blessed with many great upgrades to our facility in recent years and I am looking forward to hosting more than half of our games at home," said Winkler on the number of home games in the 2014 schedule. "We take pride in playing well in front of our home fans and we'll get many opportunities to do so throughout the season."
With a roster featuring eight seniors, including the powerful bats Marci Christian and Stephanie Sbardella, as well as the return of pitching ace Morgan Dowdy and Jessica Brock, the Buccaneers will look to build off their run in the 2013 Big South Championships in returning to the Championship Game with a berth at the NCAA Tournament at stake.
"This year's team has it all," commented Winkler on the makeup of the Buccaneers roster. "We have eight seniors that are hungry to once again have our program near the top of the Big South standings and we also have a large number of newcomers who are eager to prove they can take CSU Softball to new heights. Our pitching depth is greater than ever and I also believe we've improved offensively and defensively as well. I'm looking forward to this group making each day count and continuing to improve all year."
The Buccaneers are put to the test early with back-to-back home tournaments to open the season as Charleston Southern hosts their first tournament from February 7-9, welcoming teams from Maryland-Eastern Shore, UNC Wilmington and Elon to Buccaneer Field for a round robin tournament. The following weekend the crack of the bats will again be heard on CSU's campus as the Bucs host Maine, St. Bonaventure and Jacksonville State from February 14-16.
Charleston Southern heads out on their first road trip of the season on the following weekend from February 21-23 as the Buccaneers make the trip to Tallahassee, Fla., to take part in a seven team tournament jointly hosted by Florida State and Florida A&M. The Bucs will take on Hofstra, FAMU, Northern Iowa and California-Santa Barbara before wrapping up the weekend on Sunday against host Florida State at JoAnne Graf Field.
The Bucs return home on February 26th for a doubleheader against USC Upstate, before closing out their home tournament schedule that weekend as the Bucs host three teams from February 28-March 2. Eastern Illinois, Colgate and Appalachian State make the trip to Charleston, S.C., to take on the Buccaneers over the three-day event on Buccaneer Field.
The Buccaneers take their longest road trip of the season following their home tournament, making trips to South Carolina, the UCLA/CSUN Tournament before opening up Big South Conference play against Winthrop.
The road trip begins on March 4 in a single game in Columbia between the Bucs and the Gamecocks, before Charleston Southern makes the flight out to California to take part in the seven-team tournament hosted in UCLA's Easton Stadium and CSUN's Matador Diamond. Tournament play runs from March 7-9 with CSU taking on Oregon State, UNLV, UCLA, CSU Bakersfield and Cal State Northridge over the three day event.
Conference action begins on March 12-13 in a three game series on the road against Winthrop, before the Bucs return home for a nine-game home stand spanning March 15-26.
CSU begins their home stand with a visit from Big South foe Longwood for a three-game series on March 15-16, while Rider comes into town on the 18th for a single game at Buccaneer Field. The Bucs close out the stand with a three-game series against Presbyterian on March 22-23 and a doubleheader against local rival College of Charleston on March 26.
Heading back on the road, CSU makes the trip up to Lynchburg, Va., for a three-game series against Liberty on March 28-29, before making the return trip to CofC for a doubleheader at Patriots Point on April 5. The road trip ends in a doubleheader on April 8 against Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C.
A quick trip back to CSU on April 12-13 has the Bucs hosting Radford in a conference weekend series, before Charleston Southern returns to the road to conclude the Coastal Carolina series with a single game on April 16. The Bucs also close out the road portion of their schedule on April 18-19 with a three-game conference series against Gardner-Webb.
May brings Senior Weekend for the Buccaneers as Charleston Southern closes out the 2014 regular season on May 3-4 against Campbell.
The 2014 Big South Softball Championships run from May 8-11 and will be hosted by Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C., this year, with all action taking place at the Coastal Carolina Softball Field.