MIAMI SHORES, Fla.--In her eighth season at the helm of the Buccaneer softball team, head coach Danielle Penner has seen at least one constant: the Bucs spend the early part of the season on the road. It’s no different in 2013, as Barry plays its first 17 games, and 22 of 24, away from home and doesn’t set foot on Buccaneer Field until the final day of February.
“Playing tough regional opponents will help prepare us for NCAA post-season, which is the goal of every collegiate softball team,” Penner said. “Many of the regional tournaments are more centrally located to accommodate teams and conference schools from Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Sometimes, travelling is an integral component to ensure the Buccaneer Softball team is facing strong non-conference regional opponents.”
Despite losing seven seniors, including the number one pitcher and five of the top seven hitters, the Bucs do not ease into season. Seven of their first 11 games come against teams that played in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
“I am confident in this year’s squad,” Penner added. “We have a great core of returners and a talented group of impact newcomers. In order to prepare for the NCAA post-season, we need to play top caliber teams throughout the season, not just during Sunshine State Conference play. Preparation is critical to the success of any team.”
After a pre-season tune-up at home against NAIA Northwood (8-31 last year) on Jan. 31, the Bucs open the regular season against the Seahawks in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 2.
The Bucs travel over to Clearwater, Fla., for the Eckerd College Invitational Feb. 8-10. Three of the five games come against 2012 regional teams. They open with Flagler (39-20) of the Peachbelt Conference on Feb. 8. They also face PBC foes Georgia College (25-24) and Columbus State (40-20). They close out the tournament against Sunshine State Conference rival Tampa (37-8) and Colorado Christian (34-29) of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
From there, the Bucs make their annual trek to Decatur, Ala., for the Charger Chillout Feb. 15-17. The field is another stout one, as the first four games come against regional participants. The Great Lakes Valley Conference’s Bellarmine Knights (32-28) played in the Midwest Regional, while Augusta State’s Panthers (33-18) of the PBC played in the Southeast. The middle day of the tournament is particularly tough. The host Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (42-16) of the Gulf South and the PBC’s North Georgia Saints (49-10) both won over 40 games last year and the Saints advanced to the Super Regional. The Bucs close out the Chillout against Lander (26-22) of the Peachbelt and the GSC’s West Georgia’s Wolves (14-40).
The Bucs play an unusual schedule on the last weekend of the opening month. The Bucs will face Fort Valley State of the SIAC in Winter Park, Fla., on Saturday, Feb. 23, and then travel over to Saint Leo for the final day of the Saint Leo Invitational on Sunday, Feb. 24. They will face Maryville (15-35) of the GLVC and Francis Marion (31-20) of the Peachbelt.
On Feb. 28, the Bucs finally open up at home, hosting the Lakers of Mercyhurst (26-25) of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
The home stand is a short one as the Bucs are right back on the road to start the month of March as the Bucs have spring break to open the month. They open SSC play back at Saint Leo (22-32) on Feb. 2-3, and then travel over to St. Augustine, Fla., to face the Flagler Saints in a twinbill on Feb. 5. The Saints advanced to the finals at the Spring Sports Festival last year.
Returning from spring break, the Buccaneers finally have an extended home stand with their next eight games at the friendly confines of Buccaneer Field. They host the Florida Southern Mocs (39-18) and Nova Southeastern Sharks (33-22) in SSC series, sandwiched around a visit from the Molloy Lions (47-13). The Bucs faced the Mocs in last year’s regional, while the Lions advanced to the East Super Regional.
After a trip over to Tampa, Fla., to face the defending SSC champs, the Tampa Spartans (37-8) on Mar. 23-24, the Bucs host the Rollins Tars (43-11) who tied with Barry for second place in the league on Mar. 28-29.
The Bucs open April hosting their cross-town rivals St. Thomas (16-26) in their annual intersectional matchup, then hit the road again for eight games. They visit the Sailfish of Palm Beach Atlantic (30-21) on Apr. 6, and then play road SSC series against Lynn (2-47) on Apr. 13-14 and Florida Tech (24-27) on Apr. 20-21.
They close the regular season with five games at home, hosting the Sailfish on Apr. 24 and their final SSC series against Eckerd (12-43) on Apr. 26-27.
Home Games: 20
Away Games: 18
Neutral Games: 15
Day Games: 43
Night Games: 10
Games Against 2012 Regional Teams: 20
Games Against 2012 Super Regional Teams: 9
Games Against Teams with .500 or better record: 33
Sunshine State: 25
D-II Independent: 4
East Coast: 2