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2010 South Carolina Softball Preview

Feb. 9, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina, led by legendary head coach Joyce Compton, look for a return to the SEC Tournament this season. The Gamecocks welcome back six starters and four pitchers from last year's squad.

Only 38.2 innings of work is gone from a staff that showed growth during the fall practice schedule under new pitching coach Rick Pauly. With a different voice to help guide, the staff could return to its place as one of the top in the league historically. Audrey Broyles and Kierstyn White both are back from 10 and nine-win campaigns, respectively, and should blossom under Pauly's tutelage. Junior Ashley Chastain showed tremendous improvement in the fall season and will also play a vital role in the circle.

Six starting position players return, including SEC All-Defensive Team left fielder Adele Voigt and Laura Mendes, who led the team in hitting during SEC play a season ago. Voigt provides speed to the lineup as well as her terrific glove, while Mendes brings left-handed power to the table. The steady play of senior Lindsay Walker and junior P.J. Fulmer also will help steady a lineup that could include two freshmen, Briana Hamilton and Hannah Milks, and junior college transfer April Borchardt. Sophomore Evan Childs is another integral cog of the lineup after leading the team in both home runs and stolen bases during her freshman season.


Schedule Ranks Among The Toughest
Head coach Joyce Compton always assembles a tough schedule for her squads, but the rise of the SEC has helped make that schedule among the toughest in the nation automatically the past few seasons. This year is no exception, as the Gamecocks are slated to face three of the top five and eight of the top 25 teams in the preseason polls this season. The only thing worse than those 20 games against the preseason top 25 is the fact that 14 of those games will come away from Beckham Field. In fact, all 11 games against the preseason top 10 will happen in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Gainesville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

While facing three of the top five is bad, the Gamecocks have done worse in regular-season play. Twice South Carolina has faced four of the top five teams in the preseason NFCA coaches poll in 2001 and 2003 and three on two more occasions in 1997 and 1999. There will be no sympathy from another SEC member, however, as Auburn is slated to face all five top-five teams this year.

Strength Always In The Circle
The Gamecock teams that have gone the farthest have always had strong pitching. While there's only one addition to the pitching staff this year in April Borchardt, who is primarily an outfielder, there are reasons for hope. Returning sophomores Audrey Broyles and Kierstyn White both learned many lessons during their freshman season as they combined to throw 230 of the squad's 312 innings. Rick Pauly has also joined the staff after a successful stint as head coach at Spartanburg Methodist College. A longtime pitching instructor at the high school level, Pauly hopes his methods translate to the top level of collegiate softball.

The Fall's Shining Star
Junior Ashley Chastain came in without a lot of fanfare last year, but she finished the spring with a bang. The winner in the season-ending contest against Kentucky, Chastain continued that momentum into the fall. She won all four games that she pitched in while tossing one complete game. She did not allow an earned run in 22 innings while tying for the team lead in strikeouts. The Georgia native could challenge for the ace role this season.

Not To Be Overshadowed
Kierstyn White comes back after leading the SEC in relief appearances and games finished. Going 9-4 as a freshman, White continued on a roll during the fall, going 3-0 in four starts with a 1.00 ERA. In 21 innings, she struck out 17 while giving up just 14 hits. The always-ready White from 2009 will compete with Chastain and Audrey Broyles for the No. 1 pitcher's spot in the rotation.

Last Remaining Vestiges
The year 2007 was a magical one for South Carolina softball. The squad won 38 games and advanced into the program's first NCAA Super Regional. From that squad, only two players remain, and both played a significant role on that team. Adele Voigt and Lindsay Walker both played in every game that season, with Walker not missing a start at shortstop and Voigt starting all but one game in the outfield.

Back to Bash
Junior Laura Mendes ranks as the top Gamecock hitter returning from last year's squad. Her powerful left-handed bat should once again anchor the lineup, where she hopes to best her eight doubles and two triples from a year ago, both of which led the squad.

Steady Influence Behind The Plate
Junior catcher P.J. Fulmer has been a solid contributor for two years. She started 43 of the 45 games last season behind the plate, lending leadership to a staff that had four members in their first year in the SEC. She'll be relied upon once again to guide a young staff, as there will be two juniors and three sophomores throwing for the Gamecocks.

Fulmer also hopes to improve her game at the plate. After hitting .197 as a freshman, she slumped to .171 as a sophomore. She did hit two more doubles, but that came in nearly 50 more at bats.

Nice Double, Can You Do It Again?
f Evan Childs did something last season that has only happened three other times in Gamecock history (since 1982). The Conway, S.C., native led South Carolina in both home runs and stolen bases, putting her name among legends like Dana Fulmer, Christie Dammer and Lindi James. She was also the first Gamecock to accomplish the feat during the Southeastern Conference era. What will she do for an encore? That is something everyone is waiting to see.

If you go by the fall numbers, Childs could lead the way in many categories. She topped the squad in batting average, doubles and slugging percentage in the eight outings while also hitting the team's only homer of the fall. She did not steal any bases, however, leaving the running to the rest of the team.


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