Jan. 28, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. - In the first part of this preview series, GamecocksOnline.com spotlighted the softball team's defense, where versatility became a recurring theme. In part two, the offense takes the spotlight, an area where the Gamecocks exploded last spring to break three team season records.
When talking to assistant coach Calvin Beamon about hitting, you quickly learn his passion for the topic and expertise in the area. A two-time national champion as a player, Beamon oversaw the Gamecocks' offensive preparations the past two years, during which the team improved in all aspects at the plate. Many players made great strides in their second seasons under Beamon, including departed players Lauren Lackey's .400 batting average and Evan Childs' single-season 11 home runs.
With those among the holes to fill, Beamon has been working extra hard - with plenty of help, he was quick to point out - to work with the 17 hitters to improve their games. Beamon mentioned a "passion for hitting" among the Gamecock staff, including new associate head coach Lisa Navas and volunteer assistant Laura Trout, among others. That and help from the Gamecock mental training program has brought the hitters to a new level going into 2013.
Not to Be Forgotten
Three other starters return from last year's team, including second-team all-region performer Chelsea Hawkins. The junior tied Garcia for second on the team with seven homers, showing her power potential. Another hard worker who Beamon complimented for working on her game every day, Hawkins could be the top run producer for the team in 2012.
Another junior, Dana Hathorn, has hit throughout the lineup in her career and could put it all together this spring. A solid bat handler who led the 2011 Gamecocks in RBI, Hathorn provides speed, power and a good eye to the roster. Beamon said thay have worked throughout the offseason on her ability to go to the plate trusting she can make contact but having the intent to cause some damage.
Senior catcher Shelby Gonzales returns with a year of experience in the collegiate game's best league to help her prepare. After posting 27 homers in her final year at North Idaho College, Gonzales took some time to adjust to SEC pitching. Her improvement could bolster the lineup.
Back from Injuries
Dillon worked hard in different areas in 2012 while not being able to pick up a bat. The corner infielder is said to have shortened her swing, which should help her make more contact while not taking any of the power potential away.
Other Returning Hitters
Olivia Lawrence and Kristen Struett return for their sophomore seasons, and both showed flashes of potential as rookies. A left-handed bat, Lawrence adds a different dimension when in the lineup, while Struett's gamer approach and big hits in her at-bats near the end of last year should help her remain an option.
Brooke Barnhill ranks as the team's only slap hitter and comes from the highly-successful Spartanburg Methodist College team. Barnhill has picked up speed thanks in the workout program at South Carolina and hopes to add that to the Gamecocks' lineup.
The other transfer is pitcher Lakyn Shull, and while she's not a full-time hitter, Beamon said, "we are intrigued by the amount of power she has when she hits it. I think she will be a good surprise once she figures it all out."
Five freshmen also join the team this spring, led by five-tool players Ansley Ard and Alaynie Page. Both South Carolina natives and outfielders, the duo received lots of praise from Beamon on their work ethic and athletic ability. Both can get down the line quickly with the ability to also hit one over the wall and could be solid players this year.
Jordan Bizzell brings raw power to the team, and Beamon commented on her knack for putting the barrel of the bat on the ball. Her versatility on the infield could lead to more at-bats and chances to show that strength.
The younger sister of Ashlyn, Lauren Masters "packs a punch and has the ability to hit the ball out with her size," remarked Beamon. She is working with Beamon on her hitting to try to push for a job. Kelly Plescow also continues to work hard at her game, trying to find a role on the team.
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