COLUMBIA, S.C. -
Looking to add some wins to the left side of the ledger, South Carolina heads to Boca Raton, Fla., for the Florida Atlantic Miken Tournament. The Gamecocks face Providence twice during the weekend's action while taking on Loyola (Ill.) and the host Owls once each. Each game can be heard over the audio channel on Gamecocks All-Access at GamecocksOnline.com, while Gametracker will also be provided.
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 automatically among the toughest in the nation 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. Of those 20 games against the preseason top 25, 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 rough, the Gamecocks have had tougher slates before 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.
Bats Show Early Life
While snow kept South Carolina from starting its season as planned, things have generally gone well at the plate for the Gamecocks. The squad has hit .297 thru 10 games, sixth in the Southeastern Conference. While early, the Gamecocks currently lead the SEC in doubles (19).
Childs Ties Another Single-Game Record In Romp Of Longwood
Sophomore Evan Childs is becoming known for big bursts of offense early in the year. In her second career game, she tied the program record with two homers against the College of Charleston. This season, she waited until game four to put up a historic mark. The Conway, S.C., native hit three doubles in the second game against Longwood, tying Ashley Smith's six-year-old record. Through 10 games, Childs leads the team in on-base percentage (.484) while ranking ranks second in batting average (.407) and slugging percentage (.593).
Mendes, Walker Lead Gamecocks To Season-Opening Win
Behind two doubles by both senior Lindsay Walker and junior Laura Mendes, the Gamecocks won their first game of the 2010 season over Coastal Carolina. Those four doubles accounted for half of the Gamecocks' total of eight, the most since a six-double outbreak against Mercer on March 5, 2005. The 17 hits were the most since South Carolina recorded 20 in a 15-2 (5 inn.) win over South Dakota State earlier on that same day in `05.
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.
So far, Mendes leads the team in hits (12) and RBI (10) is second in batting average (.414), doubles (4), on-base percentage (.469) and slugging percentage (.621).
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 in which she pitched 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.
Lone Star Connection
The Gamecocks brought in three pitchers in the 2009 signing class, but little did they know the connection the trio had. Despite hailing from Florida, South Carolina and Texas, Audrey Broyles, Kelsey Goodwin and Kierstyn White were all born in the Lone Star State. The Florida native Broyles and Goodwin both came into the world in Houston, which is still listed as Goodwin's hometown, while White was born and grew up for a time in San Antonio.
Steady Influence Behind The Plate
Junior catcher P.J. Fulmer has been a solid contributor for two years. She started 43 of the team's 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.
Bringing In The Palmetto State's Best
The Gamecocks have been very active recruiting the best from their own state. The 2009 freshman class included Evan Childs and Kierstyn White, while the 2010 rookies include Briana Hamilton and Hannah Milks. The latter duo will get their chances around the infield, with Hamilton possibly getting time at all four positions and Milks concentrating on the left side.
Nice Double, Can You Do It Again? 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.
The Glove Where Triples Goes To Die Came From This State, Too
South Carolina native Joe Jackson had a glove that was described as the place where triples go to die. This year's Gamecock outfield could follow in the legacy of the great Jackson. Both senior Adele Voigt and sophomore Lauren Lackey have above-average speed that could help keep balls out of the gaps. And newcomer April Borchardt picked up three steals during the fall while covering a lot of ground when in the outfield. That trio was the opening-day starters, with Voigt shifting to center after claiming SEC All-Defensive honors in left in 2009, with Borchardt flanking her in left and Lackey in right.
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.
A Return To Speed?
This fall, the Gamecocks took advantage of their speed, stealing 11 bases without being caught. That equals their 2008 total and just two shy of last year's final tally.
A Good Year For A Rebound
Just once before in program history has the squad not had a winning record in consecutive seasons. The results the next season, however, were great. After going 28-28-1 and 28-30 in the previous years, the 2007 team won 38 games, hosted a NCAA Regional and advanced into a NCAA Super Regional for the first time. The Gamecocks hope for the same thing this year, after finishing under .500 the previous two seasons.
Carolina in the Month of February Under Joyce Compton
In the 20-plus years of starting the season in the second month of the year, Carolina is 135-62-1 (.684) during February. Last year, the Gamecocks went 12-2 during the season's opening month.
Don't I Know You?
There's a few neighbors and more able to catch up this weekend. Providence pitcher Danielle Bertolette and Lauren Lackey went to rival high schools in California. Audrey Broyles and Kandyce Redondo get to see three former Pembroke Pines Charter High School teammates. Ambar Jones and Kathryn Stauffer went to PPCHS with the Gamecock duo. The final member of that trio is a little closer than a friend, at least to Broyles. Audrey's sister Hailey is a redshirt junior outfielder for the Owls, and this will mark the sisters' first meeting on a diamond.
Gamecocks All-Time vs. Providence
South Carolina has never met the BIG EAST's Friars on a softball diamond before, but the program holds a 54-19 (.740) mark all-time against the league, including last weekend's loss to Villanova.
Gamecocks All-Time vs. Loyola
Never have the Ramblers and Gamecocks squared off, but South Carolina does own an 11-2 mark against the Horizon League members in history.
Gamecocks All-Time vs. Florida Atlantic
South Carolina owns a 6-2 record against the Owls, but the last meeting was a 2-1 FAU win during the 2008 FAU Kick-Off Classic.
The Last Time - South Carolina vs. Florida Atlantic - Feb. 8, 2008
South Carolina's rally in the top of the seventh came up a foot short, as host Florida Atlantic took a 2-1 victory over South Carolina in the final game on day one of the FAU Kick-Off Classic at the FAU Softball Stadium. The Gamecocks, who hit pitcher Amber Benson most of the night, finally strung together three hits in the seventh. Senior Whitney Wierzbicki led off the inning with her second single of the game, but she was forced out on Ashton Payne's grounder. After a Becky Martinez fly out, senior right fielder Jessica Josker ripped a single to center to bring up the go-ahead run in Lisa Longo, the hero against North Florida earlier in the day. A wild pitch moved Payne and Josker both into scoring position, and Longo looked to have tied the game up. Her sharp shot up the middle scored Payne easily, while Josker quickly rounded third and headed home. But FAU centerfielder Jessica Myers threw a strike to catcher Brittany Murphy, who blocked the plate well and kept Josker from scoring the tying run while tagging her out to end the contest.