Coley Birchfield, Correspondent
Jacksonville State University released the official schedule for the 2021 softball season on Monday. The announcement was highlighted by the Ohio Valley Conference’s decision to increase the number of regular-season conference meetings.
In years past, the limit for OVC conference games was set at 22. However, the new change will increase that number to 34.
The conference stated in their official release that the updates are “intended to give teams the maximum flexibility and opportunity to complete [in] as many games as possible while also limiting travel.”
The 2021 season begins with the Best on the Bayou Tournament in Monroe, La. From Feb. 12 to Feb. 14, the Gamecocks will host Louisiana-Monroe, No. 18 Arkansas, No. 11 Oklahoma State and Louisiana Tech. It will be followed by a double-header with Samford on February 19 and UAB’s Green & Gold Tournament on Feb. 20-21 which includes No. 9 Louisiana.
“I always like to play a strong schedule,” said JSU softball head coach Jana McGinnis, “just to give us an honest evaluation of where we’re at where we need to get to.”
After the extended stretch of travel, the Gamecocks will host their first contest at University Field from Feb. 26 to Feb. 27 against Southern Mississippi in a 3-game series. These will only be the first of the 24 contests hosted on campus this spring. The home schedule is highlighted by a 9-game homestand from March 26 to April 6.
OVC play will take off on March 12 against Tennessee-Martin. Jax State will host 5 home weekends against conference teams this season, along with a midweek double-header versus Tennessee Tech.
The Ohio Valley Conference Softball Championship will be played at Choccolocco Park in Oxford from May 13 to May 15.
“We still want to be playing our best ball at the end,” said McGinnis regarding the schedule changes, “but we don’t have much room for mistakes along the way.”
Fans should expect normal COVID-19 protocols during home games, including players wearing masks when not in play, limited crowd size and routine COVID testing for players, coaches and officials.
Asked about the protocols, McGinnis said, “At our place people can bring their chairs, they can space out in the outfield or bleachers. And it’s a good release from all of the usual restrictions.”
All of JSU’s home matchups will stream live on ESPN+, with the exception of one.