Gamecocks Take on the Texas Invitational Field on Longhorn Network
Fresh off a 5-0 start in the Carolina Classic, South Carolina heads to Austin to take on Texas, Indiana and Louisiana Tech as part of the Texas Invitational at McCombs Field on the 40 acres.
The Gamecocks start the weekend against the hosts live on the Longhorn Network at 4 p.m. EST.
Two games against Indiana follow, first on Friday at 6:30 p.m. before squaring off again on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The weekend ends with a pair against Louisiana Tech, with Saturday's game at 6:30 p.m. EST before Sunday's conclusion at 12 noon.
Both Friday's opener against Texas will show live on the Longhorn Network. The other three games will be on there via tape delay: Friday's Indiana game at 9:30 p.m., Sat.'s game vs. the Hoosiers and Lady Techsters at 12 midnight and 2 a.m. on Sunday. Sunday's contest against Louisiana Tech will show on the network at 4 p.m. EST.
Two Gamecocks, head coach Beverly Smith and senior Taylor Williams, return to their home state for this weekend's games.
Smith grew up in Houston, about 2 1/2 hours from the Texas capital, while Williams, a Flatonia HS product, was raised 75 miles from Austin.
This weekend's trip also brings to mind the first NCAA Tournament appearance for Smith as the Gamecocks' head coach. The 2013 Gamecocks competed in the Austin Regional that year, making Championship Sunday but falling to the host Longhorns.
Gamecocks Post Stellar Opening Weekend in Carolina Classic
South Carolina showed excellence in every aspect of the 2017 Carolina Classic, going 5-0 in the event.
The five wins pushed head coach Beverly Smith to 200 career victories, a new milestone for the seventh-year boss of the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks won three of the five games in shortened contests, the most ever in an opening week of competition. and matching last year's Carolina Classic output.
The defense looked outstanding, with several stellar plays coming from the infield, that sports former shortstops in three spots (Maguire, Watts and White as freshman at SC, Boesel in high school).
The team did not commit an error on the weekend, a five-game stretch. Only Toledo was able to match that in NCAA Division I through an opening five-game weekend this season.
Last season, the Gamecocks had one six-game stretch without an error (Feb. 20-26).
That helped the pitchers post a 0.23 ERA, which ranks sixth in NCAA Division I.
The group posted two one-hitters and a shutout streak of 27.2 innings, the longest since a 29-inning stretch in 2014 (Feb. 16-23).
Four straight shutouts began the year, the first time that has been accomplished by a Gamecock team. The 1983, 1984 and 1986 teams all tallied three.
Bigger Debut Weekend? Debatable Between Boesel, Drotar
Two Gamecock freshmen made their presences felt during their first weekend in the Garnet and Black.
A three-time South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, Cayla Drotar started twice in the circle and posted a 0.70 ERA in 10 innings, posting a stellar 10-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Her first career start came in game two against Presbyterian, and she proceeded to twirl a one-hitter.
That beginning harkens back to another in-state pitcher's debut back in 2011, when Julie Sarratt no-hit Coastal Carolina in her first go in the circle.on Feb. 12, 2011.
Meanwhile, Boesel hit one of the team's two triples in the first Presbyterian win and has four RBI, tied for second on the squad.
Her last RBI came in the clutch, as her ground ball drove in the deciding run in the 2-1 win over Charlotte.
White Explodes During Opening Weekend of Play
Much like in her 2016 season, Krystan White opened up eyes with her bat in her first chance to start.
The junior from Chesterfield, S.C., ended the opening weekend with a .600 batting average with a homer and eight RBI, all best on the team.
She had a perfect opening day, going 2-for-2 against both Ohio and Presbyterian.
Three of the four hits went for extra bases: the homer joined with a double against the Bobcats and another double against the Blue Hose.
She also showed her versatility, starting at both second and third while making stellar plays at both.
One of two shortstops in 2015, she drew 46 starts and played all four spots in the infield in 2016.
Also in 2016, she led the team both in opportunies (21) and RBI (15) with runners on third and less than two outs.
The Schedule Has Never Been Tougher
The 2017 schedule is the toughest compiled to date by head coach Beverly Smith.
The Gamecocks are set to play 33 of their 56 regular-season games against teams who made the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina is scheduled to play at least one NCAA Tournament team each weekend except for one: the SEC trip to Mississippi State, who ended 2016 with a 39 RPI and was ineligible for postseason play (26-31 record).
On the docket are 15 games against Women's College World Series teams and another three against last year's top seed in the NCAA Tournament (and defending SEC champs), Florida, who lost in super regional play to Georgia.
A total of 46 of the Gamecocks' scheduled games come against teams that finished in the top 100 of the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index last year. Of those, 42 are against the top 76 teams and 33 are versus the top 50.
The Gamecocks play four defending regular-season conference champs: Florida (SEC), Florida State (ACC), Longwood (Big South) and North Dakota State (Summit) as well as the Atlantic Sun (USC Upstate) and SEC (Auburn) Tournament champs from 2016.
Of the preseason top 25 in both major polls, the Gamecocks are slated to take on nine of them, including four of the top five and eight of the top 10 (seven in the NFCA poll).
Seven of those nine are in SEC play, accounting for 21 games.
South Carolina, who had 13 points in the NFCA/USA Today Preseason poll, also has five games against teams receiving votes in between the two polls.
Leading the Gamecocks' 14 returners is the senior pitching duo Nickie Blue and Jessica Elliott.
The duo combined for all 61 starts, 390.1 innings, 246 strikeouts, 37 wins and all eight saves.
Six position player starters return for the Gamecocks from last year's squad.
South Carolina lost five students who combined to start 215 games, including a majority of starts at catcher, second base, left and center field.
The highest percentage lost in any offensive category is stolen bases at 75 percent, followed by triples at 66.7 and sacrifice hits at 50.
The Gamecocks return around 60 percent of its offense in most other categories, including 74.4 percent of their doubles to 71.7 percent of their home runs.
The top hitter from last year is back, senior Kaylea Snaer, as she led NCAA Division I in doubles and SC in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, RBI and sacrifice flies.
Six newcomers could play in 2017, three signees and three transfers.
Leading that contingent is former first-team All-Big Ten catcher Alyssa VanDerveer (Penn State), while high school All-Americans Mackenzie Boesel and Cayla Drotar both could be major contributors.
Also joining the team are a pair of award-winning outfielders: two-time 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Week Lauren Stewart (Purdue) and two-time NJCAA All-American Shannon Plese (Chattanooga State).
The sixth newcomer, freshman Alexis Lindsey, will likely miss the year to rehabilitate an injury.
The Gamecocks hail from 12 states this year, with the newcomers coming from California, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee. Nickie Blue and Hayley Copeland are the first Gamecock duo who are both over six-feet tall.
While both are Williams' and seniors by class, Taylor and Victoria are not sisters.
Gamecock Newcomers, Signees Have Loads of Accolades, Accomplishments
Many Gamecocks have won awards at South Carolina, but the high school accolades continue to raise the specter of Bev Smith's recruiting classes.
This year's freshman class has two high school All-Americans on it: Mackenzie Boesel and Cayla Drotar.
The team also added its third NJCAA All-American under Bev Smith, signing Shannon Plese out of Chattanooga State.
Plese follows in the footsteps of former Tigers Melissa Hendon and Kaela Jackson (herself a former NJCAA All-American) and joins 2015 NJCAA Pitcher of the Year Jessica Elliott on the roster.
Drotar also claimed the South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year award the past three seasons, and next year, two-time New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year Kelsey Oh will join them.
All the awards for the Gamecocks and the national notations for the 2018 signing class are on page four of the notes.
Meanwhile, Gamecock signee Alex Fulmer has racked up notoriety on the baseball diamond, playing for the last two years with the USA Baseball Women's National Team.
She played on teams that won the 2015 Pan American Games gold medal as well as the consolation bracket of the 2016 World Baseball Softball Confederation World Cup.
Fulmer and Oh were joined by Jana Johns, Victoria Galvan and Alyssa Kumiyama in the 2018 signing class.
South Carolina Staff Has Top Credentials
Gamecock head coach Beverly Smith has been a part of 12 NCAA Tournament teams as a coach (eight at UNC, four at South Carolina).
Associate head coach Lisa Navas has been to six NCAA Tournaments as an assistant coach (four at SC, one each at UNC and Missouri) and eight as a head coach (six Division II at Barry, two at NC State). Her 1998 Barry squad played in the national championship game. Navas has been selected to be a part of the 2017-19 USA Softball Women's National Team coaching pool alongside 21 other coaches.
Assistant coach Calvin Beamon has three titles to his credit as a player, the biggest a College World Series title at Texas during 2005.
He also won the NJCAA Division I title in 2003 at the College of Southern Nevada and a high school state championship at Smoky Hill High School in Cherry Creek, Colo.
Volunteer assistant Matt Stewart worked the past three years at Florida, serving as a manager for both of the Gators' national title wins.
South Carolina Softball Historical Record
South Carolina has played 2,190 games in its softball history, going 1421-762-7 (.650) in its 41st season of sponsorship.
Gamecocks Off the Diamond
The Gamecocks post their third-highest team GPA in the past 10 years last spring (3.456).
Fourteen Gamecocks garnered NFCA Scholar-Athlete honors in 2015-16, the most under Beverly Smith. Kaylea Snaer became the 17th Gamecock selected to CoSIDA's Academic All-District team in 2016, a year after Victoria Williams made the squad.
Off the 2016 roster of 20 students, 17 Gamecocks earned SEC Academic Honor Roll nods.
Senior Macey Webb has been accepted to law school and wants to help women in need.
Junior Jordyn Augustus went through the University's Carolina Leadership Initiative in 2015-16.
Snaer participated in the first SEC Corporate Career Tour this Dec. in Atlanta.
Gamecock freshmen Mackenzie Boesel, Cayla Drotar and Alexis Lindsey, during their official visit in the fall of 2015, joined the team and community helping Columbia recover from the historic floods that devastated the Midlands in October of 2015.
The softball team has won the department's Community Outreach Team of the Year twice under Bev Smith in 2011 and 2013.
Former Gamecocks have played a big part in helping out the Louisville Slugger Warriors team made up of former military veterans.
Gamecocks Have a Rich NCAA Tournament History
South Carolina earned its 19th bid in the NCAA Tournament in 2016, the fourth straight under head coach Beverly Smith.
The Gamecocks are 37-41 in those trips, making three NCAA Women's College World Series in their history (1983, 1989 and 1997).
The program has five AIAW World Series trips in its history as well prior to 1982.
Last season's regional was SC's fourth trip to a regional in Tallahassee and the third-straight year the Gamecocks drove to Florida's capital city.
Picked second in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll, the Longhorns bring back five offensive starters and their entire pitching staff from last year's 38-16 team.
That includes staff ace Tiarra Davis, who tossed 213 innings and compiled a 1.97 ERA, striking out 186 and walking 110.
Davis worked twice in the opening weekend, posting a 3.50 ERA in six innings.
The three-person staff has added two members: Brooke Bollinger and Erica Wright.
Davis did, however, hit a team-best .538 in the opening weekend, helping the Longhorns to go 3-2 with both losses coming against Minnesota.
Gone is top hitter Lindsey Stephens, who led Texas in every major offensive category, including a .407/.500/.832 slash line with 20 doubles, 15 homers, 46 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 19 tries.
The No. 3 steals person is also gone, as Stephanie Ceo and her 10 stolen bases departed.
Top returning hitter Celina Felix struggled in the opening weekend of play (.167/.286/.250).
No. 2 steals last year, Stephanie Wong already has five in six attempts.
SC Series History vs. the Longhorns
Texas has won two of the three meetings, both in Austin during 2013 NCAA Regional play.
The Hoosiers return seven offensive starters and their entire pitching staff from last year's 29-25 squad.
Last season, Tara Trainer and Josie Wood both posted over 150 innings of work, with Trainer tallying a 3.20 ERA with 183 K's and 109 walks compared to Wood's 3.69 ERA on 116 K's and 74 BB.
Trainer tossed 16.1 innings last weekend, striking out 23 while walking 10 to go with the 2.14 ERA.
The top four hitters return, including speedsters Rebecca Blitz and Erin Lehman.
Blitz led the team with 29 stolen bases and a .350 batting average, while Lehman posted eight sacrifice hits, 13 steals and seven doubles.
CaraMia Tsirigos led the team with seven homers and a .541 slugging percentage while also drawing 31 walks.
Tsirigos had the team's best OBP (.438) during the team's play in the Kajikawa Classic, where the Hoosiers went 2-3, losing twice to Pac-12 teams as well as No. 24 Fresno State.
That fourth hitter back, Taylor Uden, led IU with 31 RBI in 40 starts.
One big loss is Michelle Huber's six homers.
Junior Rachel O'Malley led the team with a .385 batting average in Tempe last weekend, while Uden had a team-best two doubles.
Freshman pitcher Emily Goodin, who graduated early to join the Hoosiers this spring, posted a 0.98 ERA in 14.1 innings of work, striking out seven while walking only one.
Ties Between South Carolina and Indiana
Both juniors, IU's Rachel O'Malley and SC's Jordyn Augustus played with the Beverly Bandits' travel-ball team.
SC Series History vs. the Hoosiers
The Gamecocks have won the last six meetings, though Indiana owns a 10-6-1 advantage in the series that dates back to 1977.
Scouting Louisiana Tech
The Lady Techsters return five offensive starters and two pitchers from last year's 32-22 team that finished third in Conference USA's West Division.
Back is top hitter Tori Charters, who led Louisiana Tech with a .373 batting average.
Also returning is Pauline Tufi, who topped Tech with 12 home runs and 45 RBI.
Dual threat Bianca Duran is back, but in a coaches' polo instead of in uniform. She had 11 doubles, nine homers and 38 RBI to go with a 2.78 ERA, striking out 49 and walking 39 in 163.2 innings.
Also gone? Anna Cross left after hitting six home runs and swiping a team-best 21 bases.
Tech's offense posted two run-rule wins in its home tourney last weekend over North Dakota and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Tech did fall on Wednesday at No. 7/8 LSU, 5-0.
Thus far, Louisiana Tech has drawn 25 walks in six games while only giving up 10.
The team has 12 doubles already, led by Morgan Turkoly's three.
Ties Between South Carolina and Louisiana Tech
Seniors Nickie Blue and Pauline Tufi as well as Tech sophomore Berkley Calapp all played travel ball for the Triple Crown Stars.
Tech senior Natalie Moran and SC junior Kamryn Watts hail from Nemesis Elite, the same group that produced former Gamecock standout Samie Garcia that is led by Garcia's father.
SC Series History vs. the Lady Techsters
Louisiana Tech owns a 24-7 advantage in a series that was played regularly from 1983-1995.
That includes a 6-1 lead for the Lady Techsters in neutral-site affairs.
Blue Starting to Climb Gamecock Pitching Charts
Senior Nickie Blue moved up on many career pitching charts in 2016, including into eighth on the innings pitched and wins charts and seventh on the strikeouts listing.
She's already moved up in innings pitched, wins and shutouts. All those advances up the charts can be found on page 10.
Blue's next save ties her for the school record.
Blue became the fourth Gamecock pitcher in history with back-to-back 200-inning years, joining Angie Lear (1990-91), Darlene Gareis (3 years, 1992-94) and Megan Matthews (4 years, 1999-2002) on that list.
In 2015, Blue posted over 200 innings in the circle and an ERA under 2.00, one of two in the SEC to post such numbers (Lauren Haeger of Florida the other).
After her drop ball produced ground outs at a 65 percent rate (506-269) in her first two years on campus, Blue used a rise more often in 2016 but still tallied a 57 percent (271-203) ground-out rate.
Offensive Records Falling Regularly for Gamecocks under Smith
In head coach Beverly Smith's first six years, the Gamecocks broke team offensive records 25 times (tracked on page 14 in these notes).
The 2016 team broke the HBP (85) mark and finished second in on-base percentage (.387), tied for second in doubles (82), third in walks per game (2.80), third in sacrifice flies (20) and fourth in walks (171).
Smith's teams set the home run and slugging percentage records in four-straight seasons (2012-15) and the on-base percentage mark in three straight (2013-15).
While not a record, the Gamecocks have hit .291 over the past six seasons, 75 points higher than the year before Smith came to Columbia.
Gamecock Pitching Making Strides
Beverly Smith's pupils in the circle improved greatly in her first six seasons.
The 2016 team posted a 2.82 ERA, the best mark for a Gamecock team since 2008.
The staff backed this by lowering its home runs allowed to 23, 20 less than the 2015 team's total.
Gamecock pitching improved its strikeout-to-walk ratio in each year from 2013-15. Nickie Blue, who led the nation in saves as a freshman, became the fourth Gamecock to post consecutive 200-inning seasons in 2015-16.
In 2015, she posted over 200 innings in the circle and an ERA under 2.00, one of two in the SEC to post such numbers (All-American Lauren Haeger of Florida the other).
Fielding Has Jumped Leaps and Bounds, Too
Beverly Smith's teams have improved their fielding percentage in each of the last four years as well, coinciding with the team's winning ascent.
The 2016 Gamecocks finished third in program history with a .972 fielding percentage, which ranked third in the SEC and 20th in NCAA Division I.
In the SEC era, 10 of the best fielding percentages in a single season in the position categories have been recorded by Smith's players.
Snaer Back to Threaten More Records
First baseman Kaylea Snaer ended 2016 with 27 doubles, leading the nation and tying for fourth in a single season in NCAA Division I history with five others.
Snaer earned a spot on the 2016 CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team, the 17th Gamecock to garner selection.
Six times, Snaer posted two doubles in a game.
However, Snaer's biggest hit came in the seventh inning of the Gamecocks' SEC Tournament win.
With two outs, two on and on an 0-2 count, Snaer hit her sixth homer of the year to tie the game against No. 17/15 Missouri, a game SC won an inning later on Taylor Williams' pinch-hit homer.
Snaer also hit the game-winning home run in the eighth against No. 12/12 Georgia on Monday, March 21, clinching the series win.
She enters her senior year ranking first in SC history in doubles per game and walks per game and second in RBI per game.