MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team will waste little time acclimating to the 2014 schedule with a full 56 game slate including several regional and conference rivalries.
The slate features 56 scheduled games against 34 different opponents. The Skyhawks will travel to four non-conference tournaments while facing opponents from the Missouri Valley, American Athletic and Southeastern conferences.
“The overall schedule is very challenging,” said UT Martin softball coach Donley Canary. “We’re playing several teams that are nationally ranked and from large conferences. We’ll see the likes of Indiana out of the Big 10, Ole Miss out of the SEC and Central Florida and Memphis from the American Athletic.”
The Skyhawks will begin the season with stops at four preseason tournaments. Despite not playing at home until March 11, the Skyhawks will travel to tournaments at Louisiana Tech, Georgia State, Ole Miss and Central Florida.
UT Martin will open at the Louisiana Tech Tournament in Ruston, La. on Feb. 7-9. The Skyhawks will open the season on Feb. 7 when they play host Louisiana Tech. Joining the tournament field is Saint Louis, Houston Baptist, Wichita State and Jackson State.
The Skyhawks will then travel to Georgia State in Atlanta, Ga on Feb. 15-16. Opening the tournament against Indiana, the Skyhawks will then face off against host Georgia State to end the evening. Saturday will see the Skyhawks matchup against Bowling Green and East Tennessee State.
The next stop will see five games at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. on Feb. 21-23. The tournament field will include Buffalo, Northern Colorado, Saint Louis and Bowling Green before the Skyhawks play host Ole Miss on Sunday.
The Skyhawks will spend their spring break in sunny Florida when they travel to Orlando for a tournament hosted by Central Florida from March 2-8 in their final tournament appearance. UT Martin will play nine games in six days, including six as part of the tournament field. The Skyhawks will face off against Princeton, Stetson, College of Charleston, Colgate, Western Carolina and Troy as part of the tournament. Sandwiched between the six tournament games will see matchups against Bethune Cookman and Central Florida.
“Playing so many games early gets you ready to play,” said Canary. “You become well versed in how to pack your suitcase by the end of the tournament schedule. Starting the season so early makes it nearly impossible to play home games in early February and March. It’s challenging. It gets you ready to play and prepares your team for situations in which you’ll see later in the year.”
Following tournament play, the Skyhawks will turn to their non-conference slate of play. The Skyhawks will open the home portion of its schedule when it hosts Saint Louis on March 11 with a doubleheader. For the second straight year, Ole Miss will travel to Bettye Giles Field on March 25.
The Skyhawks final four non-conference opponents will include a doubleheader at Evansville (Apr. 2), a trip to Memphis (Apr. 9) and back-to-back games against Middle Tennessee (Apr. 22) and Southern Illinois (Apr. 24).
“Memphis is a tough team while Evansville and Southern Illinois are always contending within the Missouri Valley Conference,” said Canary. “In order to stay sharp on the weekend, we have to play tough opposition during the middle of week.”
UT Martin’s next order of business will be competing for an Ohio Valley Conference championship. The Skyhawks quest for another championship will begin on March 15 at Murray State. The Skyhawks will have to put their travel experience to use as their first seven conference games come on the road. Following the three game series against Murray State, the Skyhawks will travel to Morehead State (March 22) and Eastern Kentucky (March 23) for a pair of doubleheaders.
The road warriors will return home for a seven game conference homestand of their own as they host three games against SIU Edwardsville on March 29-30. Following a trip to Evansville, the Skyhawks will host OVC East foes Tennessee State (Apr. 5) and Belmont (Apr. 6) with a pair of twinbills to close out the homestand.
The Skyhawks will then travel to defending OVC season champion Eastern Illinois on Apr. 12-13 before returning home. The following homestand will host Tennessee Tech (Apr. 18) and defending OVC Tournament champion Jacksonville State on Apr. 19.
UT Martin will close out the conference schedule with three home games against Southeast Missouri on Apr. 26-27 before wrapping up the regular season at Austin Peay on May 3-4.
The OVC Tournament is slated for May 7-10. Once again, the league’s regular season champion will host the postseason event. UT Martin will look to advance to its sixth straight OVC Tournament appearance.
“When we look at conference play, we tell our kids, if you can play around .500 on the road then you are putting yourself in a great position to contend for a conference championship seeing that we’re a tough draw at home,” said Canary. “The depth in the conference is always tough and you want to get off to a strong start as we begin conference play on the road. Our conference is ranked 17th out of 32 conferences who play Division I softball. The OVC has fared very well against tough non-conference competition, and nearly every team in this league can play with anyone in the country.”