DEMOREST -- Piedmont College softball coach Terry Martin has released the 2014 schedule for his Lady Lions, who are fresh off their third NCAA tournament appearance in the last four seasons, as well as a 2013 USA South Athletic Conference regular season championship.
On the docket will be 38 games in total, including 24 at home with Piedmont not hitting the road until playing 12 straight games on the Demorest campus to open the 2014 season.
First up will be a doubleheader that serves as the season opener for both PC and Birmingham Southern College who travels to Piedmont on February 15th. The Panthers are a new opponent for Piedmont in 2014 as the two have never faced each other in the NCAA era which began for PC with the 2004 season.
Birmingham Southern finished 2013 with a 28-18 overall record as the Southern Athletic Association Championship Tournament Runner-Up falling to champion Millsaps in the title game. The Panthers will be a handful for the Lady Lions to open against as they return 2013 SAA Player of the Year and NFCA All-American Taylor Bassett who will be a junior on this year's team and ready to defend her stellar performance from last season that saw the then sophomore lead the SAA in home runs (17), RBIs (47), and batting average (.459).
Bassett also ranked second in the nation in home runs, second in walks per game (1.04), third in on-base percentage (.617), and sixth in slugging percentage (1.000) on the way to being named BSC Co-Female Athlete of the Year. With 21 home runs since arriving in Birmingham, Bassett is the program's all-time leader in home runs for a career - after just two seasons as a Panther.
After the season opener with BSC, Piedmont hosts three straight non-conference doubleheaders all coming against teams with winning records from 2013. The Lady Lions' first four opponents on the 2014 schedule combined to go 116-60 last year with none of the four finishing the season with less than 25 wins.
Elmira College is first on that dreaded opening slate after the BSC opener with the Soaring Eagles coming to town February 18th. Two days later, PC hosts in-state rival Brenau University, who posted a 34-17 overall record last year and is the first of two straight opponents for Piedmont from the Peach State with the second being Berry College, a new arrival to Division III and winner of 29 games in 2013.
The road does not get any easier when Piedmont opens conference play after eight straight non-conference contests to open the year as Ferrum College, who shared the USA South regular season crown with PC in 2013, rolls into Demorest on the last weekend in February for a championship showdown and possibly preview. The Panthers posted a 34-12 record last year along the way to an appearance in the USA South Tournament Championship Game knocking Piedmont out of the year-end tourney along the way with a 3-2 win in nine innings.
After facing their second opponent with 30 or more wins from the previous season, PC hosts league member Mary Baldwin for a doubleheader before hitting the road to take on USA South foes William Peace University, Methodist University, and LaGrange College all away from Demorest in a six-day time span.
Piedmont returns home to host the first Lady Lion Round Robin Classic with former GSAC partner Salem College and in-state foe Truett-McConnell College both coming to the Walker Athletic Complex for a two-day event that will see six games on the diamond. Piedmont is a combined 10-1 against the two opponents in the program's NCAA era and hopes to improve that mark in the home tourney set for March 14th-15th.
It's back on the road again following the round robin at Walker as PC pays NC Wesleyan a visit for USA South action on March 21st before turning around the next day to face another league opponent in Meredith College. The Lady Lions swept both doubleheaders against the two foes in 2013 defeating NC Wesleyan at home 8-0 in six innings and 7-6 in the finale before taking two from the Avenging Angels of Meredith in Raleigh about three weeks later.
PC then steps out of league play for the second-to-last time to host Wesleyan College, another former GSAC comrade, for a doubleheader on March 24th as the Lady Lions swept the last doubleheader meeting between the two by a combined 46-0 score.
Following the Wesleyan doubleheader, PC hosts Maryville College on March 26th in what's sure to be a reunion for the ages as former Lady Lion and now Maryville Head Softball Coach Leah Hampton returns to her alma mater for the first time as an opponent. Hampton takes over a team that finished with a 3-33 overall record in 2013 and is looking to help lead her Scots the same way she helped lead a 2010 Lady Lion team as an assistant coach to a GSAC title and the first of three NCAA National Tournament appearances in four seasons.
The Lady Lions then get back on the road to take on two new conference members in Huntingdon College and Covenant College who each joined the USA South this academic year after departing the Great South Athletic Conference. Piedmont wraps up its conference portion of the schedule with home doubleheaders against Greensboro College on March 4th and Averett University on April 5th.
The 2014 regular season wraps up with what is becoming one of the most fierce rivalries in all of the Southeast in NCAA Division III as Piedmont will travel to face in-state foe Emory University who finished ranked one spot ahead of PC in the final national poll from the NFCA though the Lady Lions posted two straight wins over the Eagles at the NCAA Regional in Salem, Virginia - a two-game skid that sent Emory home from the national tournament.
That doubleheader showdown with EU is set for April 9th on the Atlanta campus of the Eagles who have won 20 of 27 matchups with the girls from Demorest in the program's NCAA era which began with the 2004 season. However, Piedmont has taken three of the last four between the two programs with all four of those match-ups coming when Emory was a top 4 team in the nation.
Piedmont finished the 2013 season with a 34-10 overall record, the winningest season in the now 15-year history of the program in terms of both total wins and winning percentage (.773). The Lady Lions' 19-3 record in their debut season with the USA South Athletic Conference also earned the team a share of the league's regular season title as well. In the final NFCA National Poll of 2013, Piedmont was ranked 15th having spent seven weeks in the national rankings climbing as high as #11 in weeks six and seven of the poll.