The Stetson University softball team begins its 2013 season this weekend by welcoming Michigan State and South Carolina to Patricia Wilson Field for the Stetson Lead-Off Classic.
The Hatters will open up against the Spartans on Friday at 4 p.m. before squaring off against the Gamecocks at 6:30 p.m. Stetson will play the same two teams again Saturday in reverse order, facing USC at 4 p.m. and MSU at 6:30 p.m.
"I think everyone is excited about playing Michigan State and South Carolina," junior Meredith Owen said. "To see some good competition right off the bat is always really fun. I think we have a good shot at doing well."
Fellow junior Chrissy Morello is also looking forward to taking the field with her teammates on Friday.
"I am so excited," Morello said. "We have been waiting for this moment since fall ball started and we did so well in the fall. We start off with some good competition, and I think we have a good chance at winning this weekend."
The make-up of the squad has undergone some changes since last year's team went 26-22 overall and finished third in the Atlantic Sun tournament. Seven newcomers have joined a strong veteran corps of nine returners, and so far the squad has been clicking in several different facets.
Which area might be the strongest out of the gate?
"Honestly, everything looks pretty strong," Owen said. "I think our hitting looks really good. It's the most excited I've been about our offense since I've been here. I think we keep hitting like we have been then we have a good shot."
Stetson's offense was certainly clicking in the fall as the Hatters scored 59 runs in four extended games.
"Our hitting is great, we have hitting everywhere," Morello said. "We have a bunch of power hitters, we have slappers, and we have a lot of speed. Defensively we have so much depth it seems like anyone can play anywhere. We also have the most pitching we've had since I've been here. I am real excited and everything looks great."
Michigan State went 11-42 last year and was held winless in the highly competitive Big Ten Conference. SEC member South Carolina went 23-32 overall, although was an impressive 20-7 in non-conference play.
Stetson is 1-3 all-time against Michigan State with the teams last meeting two years ago in DeLand. The Hatters and Gamecocks will be meeting for the first time since 1988. USC leads the all-time series 2-0.
All four Stetson games this weekend can be seen for free on HatterVision. Jamie Bataille and Jeff Sharon will split broadcasting duties throughout the season. For in game updates fans can follow the live stats feed from GoHatters.com, they can follow the Stetson Fastpitch twitter feed (@StetsonSoftball), and they can receive scores and news updates on their mobile device by subscribing to the free Hat-Alerts text messaging service.
4 p.m. Michigan State vs. Stetson
6:30 p.m. Stetson vs. South Carolina
1:30 p.m. Michigan State vs. South Carolina
4 p.m. South Carolina vs. Stetson
6:30 p.m. Stetson vs. Michigan State
12:00 p.m. South Carolina vs. Michigan State
Reserved tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. General Admission tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. All Stetson home events are free to Stetson students, faculty, and staff with a Stetson University ID. For more information or for season tickets please call (386) 738-HATS (4287).