Feb. 7, 2013
IRVING, Texas - First pitch of the 2013 Conference USA softball season is scheduled for Thursday when Southern Miss takes on Cal State Fullerton and UAB faces No. 16 Washington and No. 23 Hawai'i in tournament action. All nine league schools will hit the diamond Friday for an opening weekend that features eight matchups with ranked teams and 12 games against NCAA Tournament teams.
Tulsa, the defending Conference USA softball regular season and tournament champion, was tabbed to repeat by a vote of the league's nine head coaches. TU received six-of-nine first-place votes, while Houston was second and received one first-place vote and UCF was slotted third. Tulsa, Houston and UCF are among teams receiving votes in the preseason NFCA and USA Softball polls.
The preseason favorite will open the season Friday at the LSU Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La., against a field that includes No. 10 Louisiana State, No. 22 North Carolina, Purdue and Hampton. Houston will host the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic against Iowa, Texas State and Lipscomb, while UCF opens its season at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas against No. 18 Louisville, Texas Tech, DePaul and UNLV.
UAB's trip to the Paradise Softball Classic in Honolulu features contests with the aforementioned nationally ranked Washington and Hawai'i squads as well as Mississippi and Saint Mary's.
Marshall, a C-USA Softball Championship finalist last season, opens with some stiff competition at the USF-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, Fla. The tournament field showcases the Herd, No. 12 USF, No. 15 Michigan, Florida Atlantic and Samford.
East Carolina, under the direction of first-year head coach Beth Keylon-Randolph, opens play by hosting the Pirate Classic against Cleveland State, Ohio, Rider and Towson. Memphis heads to Austin, Texas, during opening weekend to tackle the competition at the Texas Classic. No. 7 Texas, North Texas and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will be the opponents.
UTEP heads to Fresno, Calif., for the Fresno State Kick-Off against the hosts, Sacramento State, UC Davis and UC Riverside.
NONCONFERENCE SUCCESS: C-USA has a history of nonconference dominance in its 13-year history, having posted a combined winning percentage of .560 or better in 11 seasons and recording four seasons at .600 or better. C-USA teams are a combined 2,197-1,610 (.577) all-time during nonconference play.
WE'RE BACK: Seven first-team all-conference performers return in 2013, led by co-pitchers of the year Lacey Middlebrooks of Tulsa and Mackenzie Audas of UCF. Additionally, seven All-C-USA second team honorees return. Preseason favorite Tulsa returns all four of its first-team all-conference players from a season ago.
NCAA PEDIGREE: The 2012 season marked the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons that C-USA placed multiple teams in the NCAA Softball Tournament. It was the third time in the past five seasons that the league has earned as many as four berths into the championship field and is the fourth time in conference history that at least four teams will play for the NCAA crown. C-USA schools have combined to earn 35 NCAA Tournament bids during its 13-year history. The conference has earned multiple bids to the NCAA field in nine of its 13 seasons and has sent at least three teams seven times.
This week's schedule
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East Carolina │ Houston │ Marshall │ Memphis │ Southern Miss │ Tulsa │ UAB │ UCF │ UTEP │ C-USA Softball