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Chris Hawkins is in his 16th season as the head coach of the USC Upstate softball program.
To say that Hawkins is synonymous with the softball program and the Athletics Department is an understatement. He has taken the softball program to heights never before seen, including four-straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament from 2004-07 and the 2008 regular season Atlantic Sun Conference championship in Upstate's first season playing on the NCAA Division I level and in the A-Sun. In addition, he is one of the all-time greats to ever play baseball at the University and was inducted into the USC Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame in February of 2003.
The winningest coach in the history of the softball program with 517 victories, Hawkins reached the 500-win milestone last season. He has compiled a 517-248-1 career record, all spent at USC Upstate. His 517 career victories are the most of any coach in the history of the Upstate Athletics Department.
Hawkins led Upstate to a fifth-place finish in 2009, claiming a 29-16 mark on the year. His Spartans claimed 11 A-Sun victories, giving Upstate a 27-15 career mark in A-Sun play. Two Spartans earned All-ASun honors and Morgan Childers borke the career strikeout and single-season strikeout records at Upstate.
Hawkins may arguably have had better seasons in the past, but the job he turned in in 2008 was simply tremendous. He coached the Spartans to a share of the regular season A-Sun championship, leading the team to a 16-6 conference mark to share the regular season crown with Lipscomb and Florida Gulf Coast. Under his guidance, Upstate won 11 of its final 12 conference games to vault into a share of the title. Along the way, Morgan Childers was named the A-Sun's Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, marking the only time in conference history a player has earned the two awards in the same season. Three Spartans earned all-conference honors and four players were named to the league's all-freshman team. Childers was also an NFCA Second Team All-Region selection. The 2008 Spartans finished with a 34-15 overall record and would have been the No. 1 seed in the A-Sun Tournament had Upstate been eligible to participate in the tournament. (Upstate softball is in its final year of reclassification as a "fast-track" sport in the NCAA and will be eligible for postseason conference and NCAA play in 2010).
Hawkins guided Upstate to four-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 2004-07, finishing the 2007 season with a school record 47 wins and a 47-15 record. The year marked the fifth time in the history of the program that the team finished with 40 wins. Hawkins has coached four of the 40-win teams.Three of his players earned All-America honors, the first time in school history the program has produced multiple All-Americans in a single season. He also had five all-conference selections in the Peach Belt and the league's co-Player of the Year. He led the Spartans to a 41-18-1 record in 2006.
Hawkins coached what was arguably the best season in the history of the program in 2005 as Upstate set a then-school record for wins, claiming a 46-15 record, breaking or tying 31 individual or team school records, and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans advanced to the championship game of the South Atlantic Regional before falling to eventual national runner-up Kennesaw State. Under his guidance, Krista Altom earned First Team All-America honors, four players were named All-Region, four players were named to the Regional All-Tournament team, and two players earned All-Conference honors.
In 2004, Hawkins guided the Spartans to a 38-16 (.704) record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, his first and the program's first since the 1992 squad advanced to the NCAA Regionals. He led Upstate to the final game of day two and eliminated perennial power North Florida from the South Atlantic Regional while placing three players on the South Atlantic Region team and two on the Regional All-Tournament squad.
In 2002, Hawkins USC Upstate to a 35-10 record, recording the best winning percentage (.778) in his stint at the helm of the program. The 2002 season improved upon a strong 34-12 year in 2001. In 1999, USC Upstate won a then-school record 41 games. Over the past eight seasons, the Spartans have had 15 players named to the Peach Belt All-Conference team, 13 players named to the All-South Region squad, and three All-Americans.
Hawkins began his coaching career as an assistant at the University under Mark Cooke during the 1989 softball season. He has played fast pitch softball and has coordinated several fast pitch softball camps across South Carolina for the past 14 years. He played fast pitch softball during the summers for Ehrhardt Motor Company for 11 years. The team competes in tournaments across the Southeast. In the summers of 1995-1997, they won the state men's fast pitch open division championship and finished eighth in the nation.
Hawkins has been active as a coach of summer travel ball. He coached for the Carolina Crush (Orange) 18U team and led the organization's 16U team to the Walnut Creek Classic tournament championship in Raleigh, NC, in the summer of 2003. Prior to his work with the Crush, he was the head coach of the Palmetto Power 18U Fast Pitch Traveling Team, a position he held for five years. The Power finished 5th in the nation in 1998. Hawkins has spoken across the country to coaches and athletes about motivation and work ethic.
As interim volleyball coach in 1994, Hawkins led Upstate to a 38-4 record and a second consecutive Peach Belt Conference title.
A native of Seneca, S.C., Hawkins and his wife, Anje, live in Moore with their sons; Kyle, Brooks, and Ryan.