Kansas Softball Releases 2012 Schedule
Nov. 29, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Complete with four Women’s College World Series teams from a year ago, the University of Kansas softball team unveiled its 2012 schedule, Tuesday afternoon.
In her third year at the helm, head coach Megan Smith put together a strong non-conference schedule to complement a Big 12 Conference slate that sent an unprecedented four teams to the WCWS last spring. Her Jayhawks will also take on two non-conference opponents who advanced to postseason play a year ago as they kick off the season on Feb. 10 against Tennessee-Martin in Hammond, La.
“We have a young team, so we’re excited to see them in our non-conference tournaments to start the season and get an idea of how it’s going to translate to the college level,” Smith said. “We were excited about our fall season, but now we’re ready to see them in action in February. We’re also getting a couple games with teams from the Big East and the Big Ten, so we’ll get that experience, too, before heading into Big 12 play against, arguably, the toughest conference in the country.”
Kansas finished the 2011 season at 31-22 after sprinting out to a program-best 11-0 start. When conference play opened up, the Jayhawks were matched up against a league that sent eight teams on to the NCAA Tournament. That tied a Big 12 record and was the most from any conference last season; even the league’s seventh-place team, Oklahoma State, made the WCWS a year ago.
The 2012 season will debut a new three-game series format resembling Big 12 baseball conference play. With the departure of Nebraska, one of the league’s 2011 NCAA Tournament teams, the Big 12 now supports nine softball schools. Each conference series will stretch to three games rather than two and will be played on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday schedule. Despite losing a league member, each team will still play more games as this year’s format gives each team 24 games rather than the old schedule’s 18-conference game season.
“The Big 12 went from hard to really hard now that we’re adding more games,” Smith said. “We play in a tough conference, but we’re excited about that. We play the best in the country every weekend.”
This spring also marks the last time Kansas will face conference foes Texas A&M and rival Missouri, as the pair are moving to the SEC in 2013.
“It will be an end to a great rivalry with Missouri, but we wish them and Texas A&M well in the SEC,” Smith said. “And we definitely look forward to competing with them one more time in the Big 12.”
Well-versed in preparing for the season in the midst of Kansas winters, the Jayhawks will spend the first five weeks of the season hitting the hot spots on the road. First up is the Southeastern Lion Classic hosted by Southeastern Louisiana State in Hammond, La., Feb. 10-12. In the opening weekend, Kansas will take on Tennessee-Martin, Troy, Northern Colorado, the tournament host and NCAA Tournament participant, Jackson State.
The Jayhawks will spend the next two weekends in North Carolina, stopping in Charlotte, Feb. 17-19 for the Charlotte Classic and in Wilmington, Feb. 24-26, for the Hughes Brother’s Seahawk Classic. Hosted by UNC-Charlotte and UNC-Wilmington, respectively, KU will face foes Middle Tennessee State, Stonybrook, Fairfield University, Gardner Webb and both host teams during the two-week span.
“We get comfortable on the road because we travel so often,” Smith said. “So we get in a routine and stay consistent. We actually thrive on playing road games; it’s not something that we try to avoid.”
March will open with the team traveling to back to the Carolinas, but this time the Jayhawks will head south to Charleston, S.C., for the Charleston Southern Tournament, March 2-4. Aside from the host, Kansas will take on Wisconsin from the Big Ten and Big East foe, Connecticut. It will mark the first meeting between Kansas and Wisconsin on the softball field in more than 10 years and will be the first meeting with Connecticut.
In its last weekend before conference play, Kansas will spend the weekend in Jacksonville, Fla., for the University of North Florida Tournament. The tournament field will be announced at a later date.
After conference play begins, KU will play its first midweek doubleheader of the season on March 20 in Springfield, Mo., against another 2011 NCAA Tournament team in Missouri State. On April 11, Wichita State will head to Lawrence for a midweek doubleheader. KU took both games from the Shockers last season in Wichita.
UMKC will serve as the Jayhawks’ last non-conference matchup of the regular season. KU split the doubleheader with the `Roos last year in Kansas City. This year’s doubleheader is slated for April 25 at Arrocha Ballpark.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE
Starting with a bang, the Jayhawks will open Big 12 play at Missouri in the final Border Showdown series as members of the same conference. Last year’s Tigers team went an impressive 46-7 in the regular season to win the Big 12 championship and advance to the WCWS.
Kansas will welcome Oklahoma State to Arrocha Ballpark to kickoff the Jayhawks’ home schedule, March 23-25. The Cowgirls also advanced to the WCWS. KU will wrap up March in a three-game series at Oklahoma. The Sooners advanced to the WCWS and were eliminated by Arizona State, who went on to claim the title.
After a heavy road schedule for the first months of the season, April will bring several Big 12 opponents to Lawrence after the Jayhawks spend the first two days of Easter weekend in Waco, Texas, playing the Baylor Bears. KU and BU, the fourth Big 12 WCWS team from last year, will play a doubleheader on April 6 and finish the series on Saturday, April 7, to allow the team time to return to Lawrence for the Easter holiday.
Following the weekend in Waco, KU will embark on a 13-game homestand, spending the rest of the month at home. After a pair of games against Wichita State to break up the week, the Jayhawks will welcome Texas, the league’s second-place team in 2011.
“To offset our heavy travel to start the season, we get a really good stretch of home games in April,” Smith said. “We had really good crowds for our home games last year, plus we played some really exciting games at home. It definitely makes a difference when our girls can feel that support from the fans so we hope they come out again this season.”
Kansas averaged nearly 700 fans per game last season, for an attendance jump that ranked second among all Big 12 teams.
Two home games against UMKC will break up the week again before the Jayhawks host Iowa State and Texas Tech on back-to-back weekends to close the month of April.
Kansas will hit the road one last time to close out the 2012 regular season at Texas A&M, May 4-6, in College Station, Texas. The Aggies advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals last year before they, like Oklahoma, were defeated by eventual WCWS champion, Arizona State.