BATON ROUGE - The South Carolina Upstate softball team got a small taste of the Spanish Town Mardi Gras upon the return to their downtown hotel last week.
USC Upstate was in town to take part in LSU’s Purple and Gold Challenge, but unlike the rest of the team, outfielder Brittany Case felt right at home.
Case, a senior outfielder, was able to play in her native Louisiana for the first time when the Denham Springs High graduate traveled with her team to face the Lady Tigers.
Plenty of family and friends – including Denham Springs principal Kelly Jones - were in attendance for the occasion for the first, and possibly last, time Case will play in her home state.
“It’s awesome coming back and playing in front of a home crowd away from home,” Case said. “It’s cool because a lot of my family and friends that probably can’t make the 10-hour trip due to travel arrangements got to watch me play.”
USC-Upstate (13-3) completed the weekend with a 2-2 record with a pair of 3-0 wins over Illinois State and Stephen F. Austin.
Case, the team’s leading hitter on the season with a .390 average, went 5-for-11 with three doubles, 3 RBIs, and a stolen base and provided one highlight-reel catch in the outfield during her return trip.
Though her extended family and friends can’t make the trip every weekend, Case’s mom makes her way to Spartanburg, S.C., for almost every game which makes the occasions special because Case is obviously in season and unable to visit during the spring because of USC Upstate’s rigorous schedule.
“I’m really fortunate,” Case said. “I think in four years I can count on both hands how many games my mom has missed. She makes that trip, whether it’s flying, driving or whatever every weekend. It’s not the same as watching on television. I was glad that we were able to do the roles reversed. It definitely makes it all worth it.”
Case joked that the biggest adjustment for her moving to South Carolina was the weather. The Spartans have played the majority of their home games this season in 20 to 30-degree temperatures, but the cultures of the two states are polar opposites.
A trip home to Louisiana for the weekend was more than just a return to see her family, but a return to a culture she grew up in.
Case said that getting to introduce her “second family” to that Louisiana culture was the most fun part– and that included a crawfish boil last Saturday afternoon, before the Spartans returned home.
“Being in South Carolina for four years, I’ve gotten to experience a whole different culture and community and build a whole new family,” Case said. “I’m lucky enough that all my team feels like family, so it’s nice to have two families.
“Being able to come back and show all my teammates where I grew up, and what it’s like is a really cool experience,” Case said. “It was great to just get some good food in my stomach. It’s always nice being back home.”
Case said that USC Upstate coach Chris Hawkins told her during her recruiting process and after she committed to sign, he would try to schedule a trip to her home state during her four-year career.
For it to happen during her final season, she said, meant “more than anyone can comprehend.”
Case’s career has been one filled with accomplishment, twice earning All-Atlantic Sun Conference first team honors as well as an appearance on the all-league’s second team.
She enjoyed a breakthrough freshman season, leading her team with a .343 batting average that included 60 hits. She also had four homers, drove in 38 runs and had 12 stolen bases.
Case even thanked LSU coach Beth Torina, not only for inviting USC Upstate to the tournament, but for the opportunity to come home during a time of the year she wouldn’t normally do so.
As a Louisiana native and a lifelong LSU fan, Case called it a blessing to play at Tiger Park, where she grew up watching from the stands.
“I grew up in Tiger Park, watching and cheering on a lot of my favorite players growing up,” said Case, who had a hit in her team’s 2-0 loss to LSU during the tournament. “I always looked up to Beth Torina and her players. It was nice to be able to come and play on this field because my other view was always in the stands.
“It was cool to be able to come and play in Tiger Park,” Case said. “I bleed purple and gold unless I’m playing them, so I have no shame in saying ‘Geaux Tigers.’”
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