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Previewing the Gamecocks in 2013: Offense
Redshirt sophomore pitcher/first baseman Julie Sarratt could bolster the lineup and add some flexibility for Gamecock head coach Beverly Smith.

Jan. 28, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. - In the first part of this preview series, 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.

The Mainstay
Among the starters back from last year, Samie Garcia ranks as the most consistent hitter of the bunch. A two-year starter at shortstop, Garcia has held the leadoff spot for every game she's started in the Garnet and Black. She's in the top 10 in seven career categories in Gamecock history, including batting average and on-base and slugging percentages. With that last bit of information, Garcia could slide down in the order, but the on-base percentage may make head coach Beverly Smith think a little longer before bumping Garcia down the order. When asked about Garcia, Beamon said, "She is a very disciplined hitter and has that gym rat attitude. We think that this is going to be a year of fruition for her. The past two years she has really shown that she can play in this league. We are expecting her to lead our offense either at the top of the lineup or in the third spot."


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
Two power threats return to active duty after missing 2012 with injuries. Senior Kelley Dillon and sophomore Julie Sarratt both hit from the right side and could extend the depth of the batting order when employed. Sarratt also adds more flexibility when pitching, giving the Gamecocks the chance to use a better defensive player somewhere while she is in the circle. Beamon said of the duo, "If there is a way to benefit from injury, I think Julie and Kelley are two people who really took advantage of it."

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
Beamon spent quite a bit of time talking about junior infielder Codee Yeske, who has emerged in practice as a solid hitter. The winner of the "cage fight" and "quality at-bat" competitions Beamon has overseen to inject more competition into practice, Yeske may have won herself a starting job with her bat and given herself a chance to showcase the five tools she brings to the team.

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.

The Newcomers
Ashlyn Masters tops the list of three transfers into the program that could make an offensive impact this spring. A standout at Northwest Florida State College, Masters "shares similarities with major league hitters, especially in the lower half of the body and how much power is generated," Beamon noted. After driving in 108 runs in two years at the junior-college level, the elder Masters could find a spot in the middle of the Gamecocks' lineup.

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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