Dec. 12, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina head softball coach Beth Keylon-Randolph recently announced her team's 2013 schedule. The schedule includes five regular season tournaments, 23 games against 11 2012 NCAA Tournament qualifiers and a total of 31 home games inside ECU Softball Stadium.
In all, the Pirates face four teams that won their conference regular season or tournament titles and six squads that ended 2012 ranked or received votes in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association and ESPN.com/USA Softball final poll.
"Although the schedule was set before I arrived on campus, it is the sort of challenging schedule that I would have envisioned making for this program," Keylon-Randolph explained. "I like the variety of different teams from all over the country that we get to play. We have six games against teams that finished in the top 25. That is exciting because I like to play a very competitive schedule. I think that challenging the team throughout the season is important for post-season play and that it is the only way to get better and really test yourself."
East Carolina opens the 2013 campaign on Friday, Feb. 8, hosting the Pirate Classic. This marks the second-straight year that ECU has opened the season at home. The Pirates welcome Cleveland State, Ohio, Rider and Towson to Greenville for the three-day event. ECU takes on Cleveland State at 2:30 p.m. and Ohio at 4:30 p.m. on Friday before facing Rider and Ohio at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and wrapping up the weekend with a 1 p.m. contest against Towson on Sunday.
East Carolina continues the home action the following weekend with the Pirate Clash from Feb. 15-17. BIG EAST Conference members St. John's and Georgetown along with Saint Joseph's complete the tournament field. ECU takes on St. John's on the first day at 3:30 p.m., plays Georgetown (2:30 p.m.) and St. John's (4:30 p.m.) on the second day and wraps up the tournament with contests against Saint Joseph's (11 a.m.) and Georgetown (1 p.m.) on Sunday.
The Pirates continue the busy home tournament schedule and host the Pirate Invitational the next weekend from Feb. 22-24. NCAA Tournament participants Lehigh and Notre Dame along with Fairfield and Liberty are in the competitive tournament field. ECU is scheduled to take on Lehigh (2:30 p.m.) and Fairfield (4:30 p.m.) on Feb. 22. The second day brings matchups against Lehigh (3:30 p.m.) and Notre Dame (5:30 p.m.). ECU completes the tournament with a single game against Liberty starting at 1 p.m. on Feb. 24.
"Out of all our games, we have 11 contests against teams that finished in the top 35 of the national rankings," Keylon-Randolph explained. "We will be challenged throughout the season, but especially early. Being home for the first three weekends of the year is going to be great for our fans and getting the people in the community excited about Pirate softball."
ECU then begins a stretch of playing nearly a month of games on the road starting with a contest against Elon on Feb. 27. The Pirates are then off to Tempe, Ariz. to participate in the Wilson/DeMarini Tournament from March 1-3 where ECU has Binghamton, North Carolina, Baylor, Arizona State and North Dakota on the docket. North Carolina, Baylor and Arizona State were all NCAA Tournament participants a season ago with ASU making a run into the Women's College World Series. The trip to Arizona State is the third-straight for the ECU softball program.
The next stop for the Pirates is a long way from home in Honolulu, Hawai'i from March 8-12. ECU starts its stay in paradise with the Malihini Kipa Aloha Tournament. After an exhibition game against Tokyo Women's College PE on Friday, March 8, the Pirates play a second contest that evening against NCAA Tournament participant Portland State. ECU plays a single game the following day, March 9, against tournament host and NCAA Tournament participant Hawai'i. The Pirates wrap up the tournament with single games against Portland State and Hawai'i on March 10. Before heading back to the mainland and opening Conference USA play, ECU sticks around the islands for a few additional games against Syracuse and Hawai'i.
"I am really looking forward to going out to Arizona and playing in the tournament hosted by Arizona State," Keylon-Randolph stated. "Getting the chance to go to Hawai'i will be a great opportunity for the team to test themselves against strong programs in Hawai'i, Portland State and Syracuse. When we do start Conference USA play, we will begin that portion of the schedule on the road in Alabama at UAB. Our conference is a very strong softball conference that sent four teams to regionals last season."
Conference USA play opens on March 16, when East Carolina travels to UAB for a three-game series. The Blazers earned a spot to the NCAA Tournament last season.
ECU finally returns to home action with a trio of games against NCAA Tournament participant and C-USA rival Houston from March 23-24.
Throughout the season, the Pirates also welcome Conference USA foes Tulsa (April 6-7), Memphis (April 20-21) and UCF (May 4-5) to ECU Softball Stadium. Tulsa is the reigning C-USA regular season and tournament champion and UCF also made the NCAA Tournament a year ago. The remaining ECU road league matchups include trips to UTEP (March 29-30), Marshall (April 13-14) and Southern Miss (April 27-28).
ECU's non-conference home schedule also has contests against state-rivals North Carolina State (March 27), UNC Wilmington (April 3) and North Carolina (April 17) on tap.
The 2013 Conference USA Championship is scheduled for May 9-11 in Tulsa, Okla. The winner of the event receives the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
NCAA Regionals are set to begin May 16 at various campus sites. The 2013 Women's College World Series is held May 30-June 5 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The Pirates went 25-28 last season including a mark of 11-12 in Conference USA play. ECU returns seven position player starters and both primary pitchers from last season and adds in four newcomers in Casey Alcorn (Hummelstown, Pa.), Kelsi Briggs (Yorba Linda, Calif.), Morgan Eisenga (Escalon, Calif.) and Mary Beth Smith (Elon, N.C.) to this year's squad. ECU has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons.