MARTIN, Tenn. – With the spring season right around the corner, University of Tennessee at Martin head softball coach Donley Canary has announced the team’s full 2017 schedule which features six teams who earned NCAA Tournament berths last season along with the ever grueling conference slate. Flooded with a full 56 game slate, the Skyhawks will travel to seven different states while competing against 21 different conferences.
“Much like most seasons, our schedule is going to be very competitive from top to bottom and challenge us right out of the gates,” said Canary. “The schedule is challenging but we have good leadership in our program. If we want to compete at a championship level, this is the type of schedule we need to play in order to get ready for a deep postseason run. We have a couple of non-Division I programs on the schedule but it’s a good mix when you consider we will play six different teams which qualified for the NCAA Tournament.”
UT Martin will open the season with a four-game tournament appearance at the Southeastern Louisiana Lion Classic in Hammond, La. from Friday, Feb. 10 through Sunday, Feb. 12. The Skyhawks will open the season against Nevada before taking on Coppin State, Army and Mississippi Valley State.
The following weekend will include a trip to Montgomery, Ala. where the Skyhawks will play four games in the Alabama State Tournament. UT Martin will take on Akron, NCAA qualifier Alabama State and Fort Wayne from Friday, Feb. 17 – Saturday, Feb. 18.
The Skyhawks will then make a trek across the Volunteer State for a five-game stay at the UTC Frost Classic in Chattanooga running from Friday, Feb. 24 – Sunday, Feb. 26. UT Martin will take on Saint Louis and Western Michigan on the opening day before taking on Farleigh Dickson, Chattanooga and Northwestern State to wrap up the tournament.
UT Martin will take a break from the tournament schedule with its home opener against Division II foe Christian Brothers on Wednesday, March 1.
After the brief appearance at Bettye Giles Field, UT Martin will travel to Oxford, Miss. to participate in the Ole Miss Red and Blue Classic from Friday, March 3 – Sunday, March 5. The Skyhawks will take on OVC foe Austin Peay along with Southeastern Conference host Ole Miss, Nicholls State and Mississippi Valley State in the field.
Following the trip south, the Skyhawks will board a plane and travel to the Golden State for a five-game appearance in the UC Riverside Tournament in Riverside, Calif. from Thursday, March 9 – Saturday, March 11. UT Martin will play host UC Riverside twice before taking on Maryland, Iona and NCAA Tournament qualifier Weber State in the tournament.
“We wanted to take a trip out to California to get Carly Gonzales a couple games back home,” said Canary. “We have tried for a couple of years to go out there, but tournaments would get moved or cancelled and it just hasn’t worked out. It will be a good opportunity to not only reward our players with a nice trip, but it also increases our visibility as a program on the west coast.”
Following the trip out west, UT Martin will return to Bettye Giles Field to play host to NAIA foe Freed-Hardeman for a midweek contest on Wednesday, March 15. UT Martin will stay at home by playing host to the Skyhawk Hampton Inn Classic from Friday, March 17 – Sunday, March 19. The Skyhawks will take on Western Illinois for a pair of contests before hosting former OVC foe and NCAA Tournament qualifier Samford twice.
“Hosting the Skyhawk Hampton Inn Classic gives us an opportunity to play on our field before opening up conference play,” said Canary. “Combined with some of our midweek games, being able to play at home will help when you consider the caliber of teams we host, along with the importance of league play.”
Following the team’s big tournament slate to begin the season, UT Martin will take on six different non-conference opponents for midweek contests. The Skyhawks will travel to Missouri Valley Conference foes Southern Illinois (Tuesday, March 21) and Evansville (Tuesday, Apr. 11) while playing host to Middle Tennessee (Wednesday, March 29), Memphis (Tuesday, Apr. 4), Ole Miss (Tuesday, Apr. 18) and Kentucky (Wednesday, Apr. 26).
Conference play will see the Skyhawks travel to OVC foes Jacksonville State (Saturday, March 25), Tennessee Tech (Sunday, March 26), SIUE (Saturday, Apr. 1), Eastern Illinois (Friday, Apr. 14), Belmont (Saturday, Apr. 29) and Tennessee State (Sunday, Apr. 30) for doubleheaders. They will also play host to Murray State (Saturday, Apr. 8), Austin Peay (Sunday, Apr. 9), Eastern Kentucky (Saturday, Apr. 22), Morehead State (Sunday, Apr. 23) and Southeast Missouri (Saturday, May 6) at Bettye Giles Field.
The OVC Softball Championship is slated for May 10-13 and will be held at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Ala. for the second consecutive year. UT Martin will look to advance to its eighth OVC Softball Championship in the past nine seasons.