GREENVILLE, N.C. – After narrowly missing out on the 2009 NCAA Tournament, the East Carolina softball team faces one of the most challenging schedules in school history in hopes of preparing the squad for a tournament bid in 2010. Twenty home games, contests against the defending Women’s College World Series (WCWS) Champion and runner-up, and a trip west to Hawai’i and California highlight the 2010 schedule announced Tuesday by head coach Tracey Kee.
The Pirates will face eight squads that made NCAA Regional appearances a year ago, including Washington, the 2009 WCWS Champion, and Florida, the national runner-up. In addition, ECU plays at California, which lost to Florida in the NCAA Super Regionals last spring and finished the season ranked in the top 15. Two other opponents on this year’s schedule, Fresno State and Conference USA foe Tulsa, received votes in both the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association and ESPN.com/USA Softball final polls.
“I believe this is one of the most difficult schedules we have ever set out to play,” Kee said. “But we have a fiercely competitive team willing to step up to the challenge.”
The Pirates open the 2009 campaign Friday Feb. 12 at the USF DeMarini Tournament. East Carolina plays Illinois St. and Florida Gulf Coast Friday before contests against Canisius, a 2009 regional participant, South Florida and Long Island wrap up the weekend.
ECU then returns to the Sunshine State for the Gator Invitational (Feb. 19-21), hosted by Florida. While in Gainesville, the Pirates will face the Gators twice, C-USA member Marshall, NCAA Regional participant Campbell and Kansas.
The first home games follow as East Carolina hosts the Pirate Classic (Feb. 26-28), welcoming Delaware, Towson, Morehead State and Penn State for the two-day event.
Before beginning C-USA action, ECU will spend its spring break playing in Hawai’i and California. At the Hawai’i Invitational (Mar. 5-7), the Pirates play Washington, Seattle, the host Rainbow Wahine and two other games with the opponents determined by how East Carolina fares in its first three contests.
Following the Invitational, the Pirates stop at Fresno State for a doubleheader Mar. 10. East Carolina concludes the long road trip with the Cal Round Robin, where the Pirates face California, Cal State Fullerton, a 2009 NCAA Regional participant, and UC Davis.
“This team is going to be road-tested early,” Kee said. “Playing 22 of your first 26 games away is never an easy task. However, I believe our players understand the importance of being able to win on the road. You cannot win C-USA if you don’t have the ability to win away from home.”
Conference USA play opens March 20, when East Carolina travels to defending regular season and tournament champion Tulsa for a three-game series. Other league road stops for the Pirates include UCF (Apr. 2-3), Houston (Apr. 24-25) and the C-USA finale at Memphis (May 8-9).
ECU welcomes C-USA members Marshall (Mar. 27-28), UAB (Apr. 10-11), UTEP (Apr. 17-18) and Southern Miss (May 1-2) to Greenville.
“The parity in Conference USA is quite impressive,” Kee believes. “Our kids know that any team can rise to the top, making for an intense journey.”
In-state rivals also dot the schedule as the Pirates play doubleheaders at UNC Greensboro (Mar. 30) and N.C. State (Apr. 14). UNC Wilmington travels to Greenville for a twin bill Apr. 20 with Elon coming May 6.
"Our squad is driven, hungry and motivated,” Kee said. “I see it in their eyes daily. They have embraced this schedule with excitement.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do before Feb. 12th, but we’ll get there. Together, this group has the ability to do great things.”
USF DeMarini Tournament
02/12/10 vs. Illinois State Clearwater, Fla. 1:30 p.m. ET
vs. Florida Gulf Coast Clearwater, Fla. 4:00 p.m. ET
02/13/10 vs. Canisius Clearwater, Fla. 10:00 a.m. ET
at USF Clearwater, Fla. 5:00 p.m. ET
02/14/10 vs. Long Island Clearwater, Fla. 9:00 a.m. ET
02/19/10 vs. Marshall Gainesville, Fla. 9:00 a.m. ET
vs. Campbell Gainesville, Fla. 11:15 a.m. ET
02/20/10 at Florida Gainesville, Fla. 2:30 p.m. ET
vs. Kansas Gainesville, Fla. 7:00 p.m. ET
02/21/10 at Florida Gainesville, Fla. 12:15 p.m. ET
02/26/10 vs. Delaware Greenville, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
02/27/10 vs. Towson Greenville, N.C. 2:00 p.m. ET
vs. Morehead State Greenville, N.C. 4:00 p.m. ET
02/28/10 vs. Penn State Greenville, N.C. 11:00 a.m. ET
03/05/10 vs. Washington Honolulu, Hawai'i 10:00 p.m. ET
03/06/10 vs. Seattle University Honolulu, Hawai'i 6:00 p.m. ET
at Hawai'i Honolulu, Hawai'i 10:00 p.m. ET
03/07/10 TBD Honolulu, Hawai'i TBA
TBD Honolulu, Hawai'i TBA
03/10/10 at Fresno State Fresno, Calif. 9:00 p.m. ET
at Fresno State Fresno, Calif. 11:00 p.m. ET
Cal Round Robin
03/12/10 at California Berkeley, Calif. 6:00 p.m. ET
03/13/10 vs. Cal State Fullerton Berkeley, Calif. 1:00 p.m. ET
vs. UC Davis Berkeley, Calif. 3:30 p.m. ET
03/20/10 at Tulsa * Tulsa, Okla. 2:00 p.m. ET
at Tulsa * Tulsa, Okla. 4:00 p.m. ET
03/21/10 at Tulsa * Tulsa, Okla. 1:00 p.m. ET
03/27/10 vs. Marshall * Greenville, N.C. 1:00 p.m. ET
vs. Marshall * Greenville, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
03/28/10 vs. Marshall * Greenville, N.C. 12:00 p.m. ET
03/30/10 at UNC Greensboro Greensboro, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
at UNC Greensboro Greensboro, N.C. 5:00 p.m. ET
04/02/10 at UCF * Orlando, Fla. 3:00 p.m. ET
at UCF * Orlando, Fla. 5:00 p.m. ET
04/03/10 at UCF * Orlando, Fla. 12:00 p.m. ET
04/10/10 vs. UAB * Greenville, N.C. 1:00 p.m. ET
vs. UAB * Greenville, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
04/11/10 vs. UAB * Greenville, N.C. 12:00 p.m. ET
04/14/10 at North Carolina State Raleigh, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
at North Carolina State Raleigh, N.C. 5:00 p.m. ET
04/17/10 vs. UTEP * Greenville, N.C. 1:00 p.m. ET
vs. UTEP * Greenville, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
04/18/10 vs. UTEP * Greenville, N.C. 12:00 p.m. ET
04/20/10 vs. UNC Wilmington Greenville, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
vs. UNC Wilmington Greenville, N.C. 5:00 p.m. ET
04/24/10 at Houston * Houston, Texas 2:00 p.m. ET
at Houston * Houston, Texas 4:00 p.m. ET
04/25/10 at Houston * Houston, Texas 1:00 p.m. ET
05/01/10 vs. Southern Miss * Greenville, N.C. 1:00 p.m. ET
vs. Southern Miss * Greenville, N.C. 3:00 p.m. ET
05/02/10 vs. Southern Miss * Greenville, N.C. 12:00 p.m. ET
05/06/10 vs. Elon Greenville, N.C. 5:00 p.m. ET
vs. Elon Greenville, N.C. 7:00 p.m. ET
05/08/10 at Memphis * Memphis, Tenn. 2:00 p.m. ET
at Memphis * Memphis, Tenn. 4:00 p.m. ET
05/09/10 at Memphis * Memphis, Tenn. 1:00 p.m. ET
Conference USA Tournament
05/13/10 TBD Houston, Texas TBA
05/14/10 TBD Houston, Texas TBA
05/15/10 TBD Houston, Texas TBA