Feb. 16, 2012
Notes for Feb. 16
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
South Carolina takes its first trip of 2012 south to Miami to take part in Florida International's Blue & Gold Feisberg Memorial, where the Gamecocks are slated for five games over three days. Bookended by BIG EAST foes Providence and Villanova, South Carolina will also face Illinois-Chicago, host FIU and Jacksonville in the event. Live stats will be available at fiusports.com, while live audio will be provided at GamecocksOnline.com.
Gamecocks Flying as Far South as Possible
South Carolina has played at many events in the Sunshine State, but this trip marks the farthest south the Gamecocks have played on record. Last season, the Gamecocks played at Florida Atlantic, in Boca Raton, and Florida Gulf Coast, in Fort Myers, with Boca being a few miles farther south. Miami is an hour south on Interstate 95 than the FAU campus.
Quartet Claim Palmetto Classic All-Tourney Honors
South Carolina took home the team title from the Palmetto Classic, and four Gamecocks led the way on the all-tournament team. Senior Kaitlin Westfall claimed MVP honors, leading South Carolina with five RBI on the weekend. Joining her on the team was another senior, Evan Childs, who posted a huge day in the win over Cleveland State. Sophomore Dana Hathorn captured a spot, collecting a hit in each of the four games, while redshirt junior Audrey Broyles also garnered recognition. Broyles had the complete-game win over Western Kentucky, an eight-inning affair.
South Carolina Defense A Little Suspect in Opening Weekend
The Gamecocks had some challenges defensively last weekend, making six errors in four games. Last season, South Carolina posted 60 errors in 56 games and had a respectable .964 fielding percentage. After four games, that mark stands at .946.
A solid defense made a difference in 2011, because when South Carolina made one or no errors, the team was 21-19. That record fell to 5-7 in games with two errors. When the Gamecocks made three or more errors, they went 0-4. The Gamecocks committed three errors in the win over Cleveland State and two in the loss to Tennessee State.
Childs' Big Bat Comes Through vs. Cleveland State
Senior third baseman Evan Childs led the way in a 7-4 win over Cleveland State, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, a homer and three RBI. It was the first four-hit game of the year for South Carolina, matching Samie Garcia's quad-hit game against Arkansas last spring.
Westfall Provided Tying Strikes, Scored Game Winner vs. Western Kentucky
Senior leftfielder Kaitlin Westfall proved instrumental in the Gamecocks' 5-4 win over Western Kentucky, tying the game twice before scoring the winning run in the eighth. Her triple in the sixth drove home Samie Garcia, tying the contest at 2-2. After the Hilltoppers added two runs in the top of the eighth, Westfall knotted things again, this time doubling home Lauren Lackey and Hannah Milks. She scored on Dana Hathorn's game-ending single that fell just inside the line in left field.
Broyles Goes the Distance and More
Redshirt junior Audrey Broyles passed another milestone in her first start of 2012, tossing 117 pitches in the complete-game victory over Western Kentucky. That marked the first time since 2010 that Broyles had thrown that many pitches, when she threw 120 in the loss at Florida Atlantic. Broyles felt so strong that she tossed another 1.1 innings against Winthrop on Saturday.
Carolina in the Month of February
In the 20-plus years of starting the season in the second month of the year, Carolina is 149-69-1 (.683) during February. Last year, the Gamecocks went 9-4 during the season's opening month.
A Much Better Showing in 2011
South Carolina posted one of the best turnarounds in the country last year, the first under Beverly Smith. The 12 1/2 game improvement tied for 12th in NCAA Division I, and the mark was the eighth best for a team that finished 2010 under .500.
Gamecocks Among Most Experienced Teams in NCAA Division I
South Carolina brings back seven position starters from last year, only having to replace a majority of starts at catcher and designated player. When removing two players expected to sit out this year due to injury along with the starts by last year's seniors, the Gamecocks bring back 92.3 percent of their outfield starts and 84.8 percent of infield starts from third to first.
Offensive Improvement Easy to See from `10 to `11
The Garnet and Black tallied a batting average that is 51 points better than 2010 (.267-.216), an on-base percentage 54 points improved (.341-.287) and a slugging percentage 94 points better (.382-.288).From 2010 to 2011, the Gamecocks posted 89 more runs, 130 more hits, 14 more doubles, 10 more triples, 16 more homers, 36 more walks and 66 more stolen bases in `11. They also had 76 less strikeouts in 253 more at bats.
Offense (and Speed) Return Almost Fully from Last Year
South Carolina has a lot of offense returning from last year's team. In the major categories, the Gamecocks have at least two-thirds of their firepower back in every category except doubles and sacrifice flies. Most exciting is the 96 percent of stolen bases back from last year, the highest percentage of any spot. The chart in the PDF version of the notes linked above shows the full breakdown of what comes back for Beverly Smith's team.
Record Speed in 2011
Last season, South Carolina recorded 79 stolen bases, tying the 1992 team for the second most in program history. That trailed only the 1995 squad (87) and marked just the fourth time in recorded history (since 1982) that the Gamecocks averaged over a steal per game (1992, 1994, 1995). The 2011 team did set one speed record, attempting to steal 99 stolen bases. The team 79.8 percent success rate ranks third in the last decade.
Returning junior Hannah Milks had her name written in the single-season record books twice for her work on the basepaths last year. Her 0.32 steals per game ranked ninth in Gamecock history, while her and senior Lauren Lackey's perfect percentage became the sixth and seventh such seasons at South Carolina. Milks stole 16 bases without being caught, one more than Lackey.
Gamecocks Set Painful Record in 2011
South Carolina, as a team, took more hit by pitches than in any season previous, getting hit 37 times. The previous mark came in 2009, when the team took 32 pitches off their collective bodies. Those are the only two seasons in record of over 30 HBPs.
And the Pitching Has Picked Up, Too
The Gamecock offense was not the only thing that improved from `10 to `11. The team's ERA finished more than a run and a half better than in `10 (3.31-4.97). South Carolina tossed four more complete games and seven more shutouts than the year before, and opponents hit 66 points lower (.253-.319) against the team. In roughly 60 more innings, the Gamecocks compiled four more strikeouts and just one more walk.
Plenty of Pitching Opportunities for All
Unlike the offense, there is a lot of pitching to fill in for the Gamecocks this spring. In the PDF version of the notes, one can find the breakdown for the pitching that returns from Audrey Broyles and Kierstyn White.
Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, Etc.
In last year's 26-30 season, South Carolina went 7-11 in one-run games and 1-3 in extra-inning affairs. Turning half of those one-run losses into wins would move the Gamecocks a long way to their goal of NCAA Tournament eligibility. The Gamecocks matched their extra-inning win total from last season with the 5-4 victory in eight over Western Kentucky.
South Carolina Made Defenses Work in `11
The Gamecocks did a great job putting balls in play during 2011, posting the least number of strikeouts as a team in the SEC (230). That played a role in South Carolina's offensive resurgence.
There's Plenty of Depth Again
South Carolina's softball roster this season is comprised of 22 student-athletes, one less than last year. And after a year of work for 16 of those, there is a viable backup at every position who could see time for a variety of reasons. Two players, Kelley Dillon and Julie Sarratt, are likely out for the year due to offseason surgeries.
Coaches Know a Bit about Winning
Last season was outside of the norm for the Gamecock coaching staff. Both head coach Beverly Smith and assistant coach Janelle Breneman came down from North Carolina, which has been ranked in the top 25 in each of their last five seasons, while the Tar Heels made NCAA Tournament appearances eight times during Smith's tenure. Calvin Beamon also knows a litle about winning, claiming crowns at all three of his amatuer stops. A high school state champion at Smoky Hill High School in Cherry Creek, Colo., Beamon won a JUCO title at the College of Southern Nevada and the College World Series during his year at Texas.
South Carolina Picked to Finish Fifth in SEC East
In the poll of Southeastern Conference coaches prior to the season, South Carolina finished fifth in the SEC Eastern Division. Florida was the pick to win the East, while Tennessee ranked second. Kentucky edged out Georgia for the third spot. Alabama was the coaches' choice to win the SEC West, while Florida was crowned the favorite for the overall title this season by one vote over Tennessee.
Scouting the Providence Friars
Opening its 2012 season in Miami, Providence returns three starters and their top two pitchers from last year's 23-30 squad. Those two returning pitchers, Alicia Grosso and Corinne Clauss, posted ERAs north of 4.00, with Clauss outshining her teammate with her 172 strikeouts and 72 walks in 169.1 innings pitched.
Jen Abrams, Jessie Bryant and Michelle Huber consist of the lineup core that returns. All hit over .300, with Abrams and Bryant hitting 10 and 11 homers, respectively. Huber stole a team-best 18 bases.
Series History Versus the Friars
The Gamecocks own a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series that began in 2009. All three previous encounters came an hour north of FIU at Florida Atlantic.
Last Meeting vs. Providence - March 5, 2011
A career-best four RBI by pitcher April Borchardt led South Carolina to an 8-5 win over Providence.Borchardt went 2-for-2 with a triple, driving in two runs on each of the hits. She also got the win, giving up two earned runs on six hits and a walk in 3.1 innings of relief work. Helping Borchardt at the plate was leftfielder Kaitlin Westfall, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Evan Childs added a double as well, while centerfielder Lauren Lackey had a triple.
Scouting the Illinois-Chicago Flames
Coming to Miami with a 2-3 record, Illinois-Chicago brings back both of its pitchers and seven starters from last year's 25-24 team that went to the NCAA Tournament. Devin Miller pitched well last year, striking out 227 batters while walking 50 in 249.2 innings with a 2.50 ERA. She threw in all five games last weekend at New Mexico State, posting a 4.50 ERA in 18 innings.
The Flames lost tablesetter Carly Demarco from last year's squad, but back is slugger Coryn Schmit, who hit 10 homers and slugged .630 a year ago. The on-base leader from `11 is back as well in Melinda Macias (.441 OBP). Jacki Fletcher led the team last weekend at NMSU, posting a .462/.588/1.000 line with two homers and five RBI.
Series History Versus the Flames
South Carolina owns four wins in six tries over UIC, but the Flames have taken two of the last three meetings. All six meetings came from 1996-2000, including three games in 1999.
Last Meeting vs. Illinois-Chicago - March 10, 2000
The 18th-ranked Gamecocks fell to No. 19 Illinois-Chicago 1-0 in pool play at the Speedline Invitational. The Flames got their run in the seventh when Gina Arnold reached on a leadoff walk, moved to second on Samantha Iuli's single, just the second Flame hit of the day, advanced to third on a sacrifice and scored on an error by Sondra Hall.
Scouting the Florida International Golden Panthers
The Golden Panthers went 1-4 last weekend in its season-opening tournament, dropping games against UAB, Michigan State, Louisville and UMass. Hitting was their main issue, as the team posted a .206 average and a .302 slugging percentage in those games. The team is under a new coach as former boss Beth Torino took over for Yvette Girouard at LSU.
The team leaned on pitching last season, and all three hurlers returned for 2012. Jenn Gniadek led the team last year with 187.1 innings, but Mariah Dawson may have been more effective, striking out 133 batters and walking 51 in 129.1 innings last year. She tossed a shutout in the team's win over Illinois. All but one starter in the lineup returned as well, with Ashley McClain's .409/.471/.696 leading the way. She also stole 10 bases, tied for second on the team.
Scouting the Jacksonville Dolphins
Jacksonville enters the weekend at 2-4 and fresh off a loss at No. 1 Florida on Wednesday night. The Dolphins bring back a strong group from 2011's NCAA Regional squad, including their top hitter and pitcher. In the circle, Sarah Sigrest returns after her stellar `11 season, where she posted a 1.10 ERA in 230 innings, striking out 208 batters while walking 48. She tossed 10 shutouts on the year and opponents hit .171 against her.
Seven lineup starters return as well, including top hitter Sarah Simon, who posted a .365/.500/.641 line a year ago. She had 10 homers to lead the team. Kayla Ouellet stole 22 bases in 27 attempts last year and leads the squad in 2012 with a .350 batting average. Amanda Schmidt led the Dolphins with 50 RBI and 13 doubles last year.
Last Meeting vs. Jacksonville - Feb. 17, 2007
South Carolina recorded 10 runs on 14 hits, defeating the Jacksonville Dolphins 10-3 on Saturday morning at the FSU Sunshine State Tournament. Jacqueline Wetherbee hit two home runs and had four RBI while Krystle Robinson earned the victory.
Scouting the Villanova Wildcats
The Wildcats start their 2012 season this weekend, returing all but one starter from the team that went 16-31-1 last season. Leading the returners on offense is Kristi Burlin, who led Villanova with a .319/.411/.578 line last year, hitting nine homers. Jamie O'Hara had 15 stolen bases while hitting .308. Valerie Ortega also hit .308 and tied for the team lead with eight doubles.
Caitlyn Delahaba led the squad in the circle, tossing 174.1 innings, fanning 145 batters while walking 89. Molly Manning took most of the rest of the work, posting 115 innings of work, striking out 68 but walking only 32.
Series History Versus the Wildcats
The Gamecocks are 3-2 all-time against the Philadelphia-based school, but the Wildcats have taken two of the last three meetings.
Last Meeting vs. Villanova - Feb. 19, 2011
With a stunning comeback that included five unanswered runs, South Carolina defeated Villanova 5-4 in the Homewood Suites/Hilton Garden Inn Florida Gulf Coast University Tournament. Down 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Gamecocks called on Julie Sarratt to pinch hit to start the frame. She responded with a double off the center-field wall to start the rally. Second baseman Dana Hathorn followed with an RBI single, plating pinch runner Evan Childs from second. Shortstop Samie Garcia came up next and laced a ball that bounced in front of the Wildcat right field before scooting past her to the wall, which allowed Hathorn to score from first and let Garcia get to third. With no one out and the tying run on third, centerfielder Lauren Lackey hit a grounder to short, but Villanova's shortstop airmailed the throw to first to give up the tying run and allow Lackey to move to second. A groundout let Lackey take third, where she would come home on first baseman Molly Brossart's sacrifice fly to center.