MIAMI SHORES, Fla.—The Barry University softball team’s “long, strange trip” gets broken up a little in 2014, with 22 of the 49 games at Buccaneer Field, including six of the first 13.
“Well, the goal is always to schedule more balanced,” head coach Danielle Penner said. “We have great facilities, great fan support and wonderful weather, so the more we can play at home the better. I think it also provides a little more consistency and structure for the team.”
The Bucs return 13 of 19 letterwinners from a year ago, including five position starters and three of the four pitchers. In addition, a stellar recruiting class will allow some players to return to their natural positions this spring.
The season gets underway on Feb. 1 as the Bucs host the Flagler Saints. The Saints (32-17) have been a thorn in the side for the Bucs. Since a doubleheader sweep in St. Augustine, Fla., in 2010, the Bucs have dropped six straight to the Saints, two at home, two away and two at the Eckerd College Tournament. The Bucs get three shots at the Saints again this year. After the opening double dip at Buccaneer field, the teams also tie up at the Eckerd Tournament for the third straight season on Sunday, Feb. 9.
Aside from the Saints, the Eckerd Tournament, Feb. 7-9, features plenty more competition. Armstrong (44-10-1), who finished the 2013 season ranked third in the NFCA final poll, on Friday, Feb. 7, is the first of 11 games against five teams that advanced to the NCAA Regionals last year. The Pirates, who haven’t faced the Bucs since 2003, hold a 3-2 edge in the series and have won three in a row.
On day two, the Bucs take on a familiar foe in the West Florida (21-25). The Bucs hold a 14-12 edge in the series and have won seven in a row. That afternoon, they face off with Lindenwood (20-30). The Lions have only faced the Bucs once, losing 7-0 in 2012.
The Bucs finish up at the Eckerd Tournament on Sunday with the rematch against Flagler and Colorado Christian (25-23). The Cougars, a third-year program, won their only meeting with the Bucs last season 8-6.
The Bucs head back home to host the Kentucky State Thorobrettes (21-25) in a region contest on Feb. 16. Barry has won all three meetings with the ‘Brettes, including a doubleheader sweep in 2011.
After a jaunt across town on Feb. 22 to face the St. Thomas Bobcats (21-22), the Bucs are back at home against the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish (27-23) on Feb. 26. The Bucs have struggled with these intersectional foes. Barry holds a 36-22 edge over St. Thomas, but the Bobcats have won three of the least seven games. Against the Sailfish, the Bucs lead 25-9, but the ‘Fish won all four meetings a year ago.
Sunshine State Conference play gets started Mar. 1-2 in Lakeland, Fla., as the Bucs visit the Florida Southern Moccasins (17-32). Against the Lady Mocs, the series has been heading in the other direction. Florida Southern leads 63-47 in the most played rivalry on the Bucs’ record, but Barry has taken eight of the last nine.
Spring Break takes the Bucs up into Georgia. They will play at Fort Valley State (14-37) on Mar. 5, then play in the GCSU Round Robin against the host Bobcats (37-17) and Newberry (16-24). The Buc have taken all five meetings with the Wildcats, including a doubleheader sweep in Winter Park, Fla., last season. Against Georgia College, the Bucs lead 5-2, but the Bobcats won the lone meeting last year. The Bucs have never faced off with the Wolves.
Returning home from the Break, the Bucs host the Tampa Spartans Mar. 15-16. The Spartans (33-10), who won the SSC title last year, trail the all-time series 68-34, though the teams have split the last six games.
Staying at home, the Bucs host another NCAA participant in the Molloy (53-14). The Lions, who reached the semi-finals of the national tournament, have won four of six meetings with the Bucs, though last year, they split a pair.
The next two series take the Bucs on the road again, traveling to Rollins (44-8) on Mar. 22-23 and Nova Southeastern (23-26) on Mar. 25-26. Barry leads the Tars 72-21 all time and took two of three last season. The Bucs lead the Sharks 42-10 and have won nine in a row.
The Lynn Fighting Knights visit Buccaneer Field on Apr. 4-5. The Bucs lead the series 45-12 and have won 23 of 26 since 2006.
Florida Tech comes to town the next weekend, Apr. 11-12. They trail 83-14 in the series and have not won a game in it since 2010.
After a return trip to Palm Beach Atlantic on Apr. 15, the Bucs venture over to St. Petersburg, Fla., on Apr. 17-18 to face the Eckerd Tritons (19-37). The Bucs lead 88-7 in the series, the most wins against an opponent in the Buccaneers’ book.
St. Thomas makes a visit to Buccaneer Field on Apr. 23. The Bucs will honor their three seniors that day.
Barry closes the regular season against the Saint Leo Lions on Apr. 25-26. The Bucs lead the overall series 77-24 and have taken seven of the last 10.
After advancing to the regional the past three seasons, the Bucs will look to make it four in a row this spring. NCAA bids go out May 5 with the regionals starting on May 9. The Super-Regionals are May 16-17 and the finals are May 22-26.