Softball Releases 2011 Schedule
Nov. 7, 2010
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Following its first Conference USA tournament and regular season titles, as well as an appearance in the NCAA Tournament Austin Regional championship, the East Carolina softball team faces a challenging 2011 schedule in hopes of preparing for a return trip. Twenty-eight home games at the new East Carolina Softball Stadium, contests against 10 teams that made last season's NCAA Tournament and serving as the host for the 2011 C-USA Tournament highlight this year's slate, announced Sunday by head coach Tracey Kee.
In all, the Pirates face four teams that won their conference regular season or tournament titles. Additionally, the Pirates travel to Georgia and Arizona State, which both ended last spring ranked among the top 15 in both the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association and ESPN.com/USA Softball final polls. The Bulldogs advanced to the Women's College World Series (WCWS) and the Sun Devils played Florida in the NCAA Super Regionals for the right to advance to the WCWS. Three other opponents on this year's schedule, Lipscomb, Illinois State and Hofstra, received votes in each of the final polls.
ECU opens the 2011 campaign Feb. 11 at the Red & Black Showcase at the University of Georgia. Of the Pirates' five opponents at the event, four received bids to last season's NCAA Tournament with 16-time post-season tournament participant Iowa being the lone exception. East Carolina takes on Lipscomb and Illinois State Feb. 11 before contests against the Hawkeyes, host Bulldogs and Maryland wrap up the weekend.
"Every year we try to set a schedule that will challenge our student-athletes early and often," Kee said. "Learning to play and win on the road is crucial for a squad to be successful in C-USA."
The Pirates christen their new stadium Feb. 16 with a game against in-state rival UNC Wilmington. East Carolina makes a trip to Wilmington April 6 for a single contest to complete the season series.
Following the stadium-opening tilt, ECU remains home for the next 10 games, hosting the Pirate Classic (Feb. 18-20) and Pirate Clash (Feb. 25-27). East Carolina welcomes Virginia, St. John's, Hofstra and Kent State for this season's Classic and Towson, Fairfield, Lehigh and Campbell for the Clash. The Cavaliers and Pride each made NCAA Regional appearances in 2010 with Hofstra playing in the regional final against Arizona.
To conclude early-season tournament action, the Pirates travel to the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational (March 4-6), hosted by Arizona State University. While in Tempe, ECU faces New Mexico State, the Sun Devils, Creighton, Northern Iowa and Northern Colorado.
Before beginning C-USA action, the Pirates have three games against Maryland and Maine during spring-break week with a doubleheader at College Park March 9 and a home contest versus the Black Bears March 10.
"For us, our season is a marathon and not a sprint," Kee said. "We understand the significance of coming out early and successful, but we also know finishing strong is just as important."
Conference USA play opens March 12, when East Carolina hosts Memphis for a three-game series. The other three home league matchups are Tulsa (March 26-27), UCF (April 9-10) and the C-USA finale against Houston (April 30-May 1).
ECU makes C-USA road stops at Marshall (March 19-20), Southern Miss (April 2-3), UAB (April 16-17) and UTEP (April 22-23).
In-state and regional rivals also dot the schedule as Charleston Southern heads to Greenville for a doubleheader March 15 and N.C. State visits for two March 30.
The Pirates play their final regular-season contests May 7-8 in Farmville, Va. ECU takes on Longwood twice and UMBC once during the weekend. This season's Conference USA Tournament will be May 12-14 in Greenville. The winner receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"Having the opportunity to host our conference tournament in our brand new stadium means a lot to us as a squad," Kee said. "I have no doubt that will be our driving force once we hit conference play."