BOCA RATON, Fla. -
The South Carolina Gamecocks head south for their final non-conference tune-up tournament, facing four foes at the Florida Atlantic University Miken Classic. Carolina takes on Providence and Seton Hall on Saturday before closing out the event against Stony Brook and Michigan State on Sunday. Gametracker and live audio will be available for all games at GamecocksOnline.com.
The Friars went 1-4 in a tournament at Florida International two weeks ago, winning their final game against Illinois. Three losses were lopsided, two of those shortened to five innings. Hitting just .198, Providence had issues in the field as well, making 13 errors. Pitching did not help out, as the four-person staff has compiled a 6.84 ERA.
Last Time vs. Providence - Feb. 28, 2010
South Carolina dropped a tough 4-3 decision to Providence in the fourth-annual Florida Atlantic Strike Out Cancer Tournament. Laura Mendes had two of the Gamecocks' three RBI with a double. Michelle Huber led Providence with three hits and two RBI.
Scouting Seton Hall
The Pirates enter the weekend with a 4-5 record, going 1-4 in Charlotte's event last weekend. Offense has been the Pirates' strength, posting a .279 team batting average. Seton Hall has just 10 errors on the season, while the pitching staff has posted a 4.20 ERA.
Brittany Hammer leads the Pirate offense with a .444 batting average. Kristen Kaelin provides the power, posting a .538 slugging percentage with two doubles and a home run while leading the team with five runs batted in. Michelle Reed has speed, stealing three bases while hitting two triples. Nalin Bennett has not been thrown out in three stolen base attempts, while she has posted a .400 batting average. Jen Metzger is SHU's ace in the circle, going 3-1 with three complete games in four starts. She's fanned 15 in 28.0 innings of work while compiling a 1.25 ERA.
Last Time vs. Seton Hall - March 18, 1987
The Gamecocks used a strong outing from Gretchen Koenig to take a 8-1 win from Seton Hall on March 18, 1987 at Lady Gamecock Field. Koenig went the distance, allowing on run on five hits while striking out nine in the win. Marianne DiRupo went 2-for-2 with two RBI , while Lynn Krohn had a two-RBI double to help the Gamecocks. South Carolina did all its damage in the third, sending 13 batters to the plate in an eight-run inning.
South Carolina vs. the BIG EAST Conference
Heading into Saturday's doubleheader against BIG EAST foes Providence and Seton Hall, the Gamecocks hold a 58-22 record against the league, including a 2-1 mark this season. The Gamecocks have split two previous contests with the Friars while sweeping a pair against the Pirates in history.
Scouting Stony Brook
The Seawolves bring a 1-3 record into the FAU event after opening the year in a tourney at Longwood. Stony Brook's lone win came in a shutout against Bucknell, when Colleen Matthes went the distance in a three-hitter. She is the only pitcher Stony Brook used at Longwood, posting a 5.70 ERA with 16 walks and 15 strikeouts in 27 innings of work. The Seawolves hit .143 as a team in the event, with two doubles among their 15 hits. The squad did play solid defense, with just three errors in the tournament.
South Carolina vs. the America East Conference
South Carolina is 4-0 all-time against the America East Conference, but the Gamecocks have never faced the Seawolves in softball.
Scouting Michigan State
The Spartans have not picked up a win since the Gamecocks defeated them in the final game of the FGCU event two weekends ago. Michigan State spent last weekend at No. 8 Arizona State, falling 6-2, 10-2 and 5-2 in the contests. All six of the Spartans' losses have come to an SEC or a Pac-10 team.
Brett Williams powers the offense, leading the team with nine RBI, while Lindsey Hansen boasts of five home runs and a team-best .737 slugging percentage. Jessica Bracamonte gets on base at a .435 clip, tops among starters, while Ali Grant is a touch better at .440 in 17 less at bats. Grant has stolen two bases, one behind Hansen's team lead. Cassee Layne has the top ERA among the Spartan pitchers at 3.59, while going 3-4 in her eight appearances. Lauren Kramer has a 5.82 ERA in seven trips to the circle.
Last Time vs. Michigan State - Feb. 20, 2011
Behind Hannah Milks' 3-for-4 effort, South Carolina defeated Michigan State, 11-3, in six innings in the final game of the Homewood Suites/Hilton Garden Inn Florida Gulf Coast Tournament. The sophomore rightfielder had a double and an RBI in the contest as well, while junior leftfielder Kaitlin Westfall went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Junior first baseman Molly Brossart added a double and two RBI. Freshman Julie Sarratt added her first career home run while also getting the win in relief.
South Carolina vs. the Big Ten Conference
All-time against the Big Ten Conference, South Carolina is 38-30-1, including a 2-1 record against Michigan State. The most recent win over the Spartans came two weeks prior to the scheduled Sunday showdown across the Sunshine State at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Great Start to the Season
The Gamecocks started things off a little better than they ended things on the field last year. With 10 wins thru 14 games, South Carolina could surpass its win total from last year before starting Southeastern Conference play on March 9.
Showing Off the Wheels
South Carolina has recorded 22 stolen bases in the early going of 2011. That total is more than what the team recorded in six of the previous nine years. While a hard pace to maintain, it's worth noting that the Gamecocks have stolen more bases than games played in just three seasons (1992, 94-95).
And it's not one person doing the work on the bases. Five different Gamecocks have tallied three or more stolen bases, while two others have two.
Gamecocks Gain Confidence from Come-From-Behind Win
The South Carolina team did something that only two current members of the team can remember: post a seventh-inning comeback to win a game. The Feb. 19 meeting against Villanova saw the Gamecocks post four runs in the seventh to take the win. The last time the Gamecocks won a game trailing after six innings was on April 9, 2008, when Laura Mendes tied the game with an RBI single and Jill Semento cemented the comeback with a grand slam at Coastal Carolina.
Unlucky So Far
South Carolina has won 10 games already, but some of their specialty stats seem to point towards much better things to come. With runners in scoring position, the Gamecocks have hit an SEC-worst .228. That includes a 0-for-9 mark with the bases loaded. In all situations, South Carolina holds a .298 batting average. If those numbers with runners in scoring position improve, it will be a big help to the Gamecocks going forward. Two of the highest games for a team with runners left on base in the league have been in two of the Gamecocks' losses (11 against USC Upstate and Winthrop).
Mendes Has Big Game in Win at Winthrop
Senior Laura Mendes posted another awe-inspiring day while powering the offense in South Carolina's 6-1 win at Winthrop. She had a double, a triple and a home run to go with three RBI and two runs scored in the game. No other Gamecock has come that close to a cycle in the last 10 seasons.
Gamecock Defense Carrying the Load
South Carolina's defense has done most of the work this season in recording outs. In the 11-member SEC, the Gamecocks' 5.51 strikeouts per seven innings is 10th. And when the defense is good, so are the Gamecocks. When making one or no errors, South Carolina is 9-1. If two or more errors are committed by the Garnet and Black, they are just 1-3.
One feature that stands out for the defense is the lack of infield hits. Through 14 games, the Gamecocks have not allowed an infield single. Either the ball has gotten through, the out was recorded or a fielder's choice or error was charged. In Monday's stat report, the team was fourth in the SEC in assists despite playing two and three less games than the trio ahead of them.
Does the Pitching Staff Have a Case of the Glavines?
Former Atlanta Brave starter Tom Glavine was notorious for having issues in the first inning before settling down and handling the opposition the rest of the game. The Gamecock pitchers seem to be the same way. The staff ERA in the first inning is 4.00, while during the rest of games it is just 1.31.
South Carolina is not prominently displayed in the SEC's individual stat rankings, but it would be bad for one to think that the team has not progressed at the plate. At the quarter-way point for 2011, the Gamecocks have already surpassed their 2010 total in stolen bases and sacrifice flies and tied last season's home run total. The Garnet and Black have a batting average that is 82 points better than last year (.298-.216), an on-base percentage 82 points improved (.369-.287) and a slugging percentage 150 points better (.438-288).
Broyles Hoping to Recapture Magic
The start of last season was nothing short of amazing for now redshirt sophomore Audrey Broyles. Among the SEC leaders in strikeouts and ERA during the first month of 2010, a shoulder injury shut her down right as SEC play kicked off. Even after two ineffective starts to end the year, Broyles still managed to hold foes to a .161 batting average in 42.1 innings of work. Now back healthy, Broyles looks to recapture her role as the ace of the staff. As a freshman, Broyles won 10 games and saved three more.
She has started rounding into form recently. It started in the first game against Elon. She allowed just two hits in the shutout win, striking out six without a walk on the day. She did it again in the game at Winthrop, going the distance while giving up just one earned run.
Sarratt A Stunner in First Two Weeks
Freshman Julie Sarratt has been a revelation during her first two weeks in the Garnet and Black. She tossed a no-hitter in her debut against Coastal Carolina on Feb. 12, the 44th in documented history. She also tossed a shutout in her third start, shutting down Florida Gulf Coast. After her first loss against Elon, the rookie is 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA, which stands eighth in the SEC. She's struck out 28 batters in 27 innings of work and limited foes to a .128 batting average.
Sarratt and Broyles Shut Down Foes with Two Strikes
South Carolina's two top starting pitchers, redshirt sophomore Audrey Broyles and freshman Julie Sarratt, become deadly to hitters when they get two strikes. Broyles holds foes to a 3-for-48 (.063) mark when any at bat ends with two strikes (0-2, 1-2, etc.). Sarratt is almost as strong, as opponents are 5-for-48 (.104) in those situations. Overall, the pitching staff has held opponents to a .130 batting average (21-for-161) in the two-strike circumstance.
Sarratt Toughest with Two Outs and Runners On
When on the brink of escaping an inning without damage, freshman Julie Sarratt becomes an even tougher pitcher than normal. With runners on and two outs, foes have gone 0-for-18 against Sarratt, drawing two walks. That includes an 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and two outs. The staff as a whole holds opponents in that situation to a .174 batting average.
Borchardt Back for Another Go in the Circle
In her first year at South Carolina, April Borchardt became a savior on the pitching staff. Primarily an outfielder during her freshman season at Northwest Florida State College, Borchardt went 14-4 for the Raiders as a sophomore before coming to Columbia. Last season, Borchardt led the Gamecocks in wins and ERA while tossing 75 innings. She may be used either as a speedy outfielder or as the relief ace again this season.
In the early going, she's excelled in the relief ace role. She's gone 1-1 with one save in her eight relief appearances, the most in the SEC. She's compiled a 1.53 ERA, fanning 15 in 18.1 innings of work.
A First for Gamecock Pitchers
For the first time in recorded South Carolina softball history (since 1983), five different pitchers have recorded wins for the squad. Five times previously four pitchers had gotten a "W" in one season: 1995, 1999, 2005, 2006 and 2009. Of course, this is just the fourth season that five players have pitched in a game. The other years were 2005, 2009 and 2010.
The Long Ball Effective for Gamecocks
South Carolina has already hit nine home runs on the season, matching last season's final tally. It has been a big help to the squad this season, as the Gamecocks are 8-0 in games where they have hit a homer. South Carolina has won just one game in which the Gamecocks did not record at least one triple or one home run.
Gamecocks Turn on Offense in Last Three Inning
Maybe it takes the Gamecocks a little while to get going. Of South Carolina's 68 runs, 40 have come in the fifth frame or later. Five of the nine homers and 32 of the 53 RBI have come after the fourth. The only inning where the Gamecocks truly struggle is the first, as the team has scored three runs while hitting .192 in the opening frame.
Offensive Onslaughts More Prevalent than Last Three Seasons
On three occasions, South Carolina has tallied 10 or more runs in a game this season. That matches the total of 10-or-more run games in the 2008-10 seasons combined, a total of 143 games.
Samie's the Sparkplug up Top
Sophomore shortstop Samie Garcia, in one weekend, proved why she was a key component brought to Columbia by head coach Beverly Smith for her first season. Garcia leads the team with a .388 batting average, is tied with Laura Mendes atop the team with two home runs and rank second with a .444 on-base percentage. She's also posted four stolen bases. She also ranks as one of three Gamecocks to have a double, triple and home run this season, along with Mendes junior Kaitlin Westfall. Last season, Garcia won Co-Cal JC Player of the Year accolades at Cerritos College.
Fulmer's Ironwoman Streak Behind Dish Ends
Senior catcher P.J. Fulmer ranks as one of the toughest Gamecocks in history. Since earning the starting job during her freshman season, she's only missed a handful of games. She even took a ball to the face during the fall, knocking out four teeth, and missed minimal time. But after making a spectacular catch in the final game of the Palmetto State Showdown against USC Upstate, the senior experienced some tightness in her back and neck. She missed the Winthrop contest on Feb. 16, breaking a streak of 89 straight starts. She has come back to start the last eight games.
Let Not Westfall's Great Opening Weekend Go by the Wayside
Junior leftfielder Kaitlin Westfall came on strong toward the end of 2010, ending the year as the Gamecocks' second-best hitter in SEC play. She's built on that, currently ranking fourth among regulars in batting average and third in slugging percentage.
She had a stellar opening weekend in the 2011 Palmetto State Showdown. In the SEC's first stat rankings, she stood in the top 15 in the league in three categories, including tied for seventh with her 1.000 slugging percentage and 11th with 13 total bases. The Macon, Ga., native had a double, a triple and a home run during the first three games of the year.
Back to Bash Again Laura Mendes has already made her way onto a handful of the Gamecocks all-time top-10 lists after three seasons in Columbia. Holding spots in hits per game, doubles per game and slugging percentage, the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., native ranks as the top returning Gamecock hitter. Her powerful left-handed bat should once again anchor the lineup. She's led South Carolina in hits, doubles and triples in each of the last two seasons, while she also led the Gamecocks in numerous other categories as a junior.
Mendes came on with a strong performance at Winthrop (3/2). She finished a single short of the cycle, vaulting back to the team lead in slugging and on-base percentage with the effort. Pitches for Mendes to hit have been hard to come by. In Monday's stats from the league, she was tied for eighth in the SEC with nine walks. That is two more walks than Mendes compiled in the 2010 season.
Lackey Legs Out Some (Recent) History
South Carolina junior Lauren Lackey has made an impact for the Gamecocks with her strong defensive play during her first two seasons as a Gamecocks. But this season, she put those legs to work at the plate. Her first career home run against Georgetown came the hard way as an inside-the-park job. It is at least the first inside-the-park home run since 2001, as none could be found in the archives from 2002-10.
Freshman Making the Most of Opportunity
Freshman Dana Hathorn has fought her way into the starting lineup and has been solid during her time since gaining the job. She drew her first start against Georgetown, and the Gamecocks have won six of seven since that contest. She has done her part, hitting .308 with six runs scored and six RBI in that frame. But she's also been a standout in the field, handling 39 chances with just one error at second base.
Milks Making Waves Recently
Sophomore right fielder Hannah Milks has been a valuable member of the starting lineup this season, and lately she's made more of an impact with her bat. She has played outstanding defense in right field, including the no-hitter-saving catch that ended the game against Coastal Carolina during the opening weekend. But against Michigan State and Charlotte, she posted consecutive 3-for-4 outings to shoot back to second on the team in hitting. She's tied for second on the team in batting average at .333.
Carolina in the Month of March
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 408-199-3 (.671) in the third month of the year.
Infusion of Winning Personalities and Talent
A total of 10 newcomers joined the South Carolina roster this fall, including five from the junior college ranks. Four of those players competed in the NJCAA World Series at their two-year schools. Both Kylie Morin and Molly Brossart helped Yavapai College to the tourney while Kaela Jackson helped Chattanooga State there in 2010. Morin and Yavapai went in 2009 as well as Jackie Slawson and Spartanburg Methodist College. The fifth player, Cal Junior College Co-Player of the Year Samie Garcia, participated in a super regional at Cerritos College during her only season at the level.
Coaches Also Know a Bit about Winning
The JUCO additions are not the only newcomers to the South Carolina softball program who know about winning. Both head coach Beverly Smith and assistant coach Janelle Breneman came to the Gamecocks from North Carolina, which has been ranked in the top 25 in each of the last five seasons, while the Tar Heels made NCAA Tournament appearances in eight years 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.
There's Depth, A Lot of Depth
South Carolina's softball roster this season is comprised of 23 student-athletes, possibly the largest in program history (still needs research). That depth, plus the versatility of the student-athletes, presents many options to head coach Beverly Smith this spring. Every position outside of catcher has at least three players on the depth chart, with some spots going as deep as nine.
Steady Influence Behind The Plate
After earning the starting role during her freshman season, catcher P.J. Fulmer has been hard to remove from behind the plate. A solid defensive player, Fulmer has missed just two starts in the past two seasons. Last season, Fulmer threw out 20 percent of those attempting to steal, just off of her 23 percent mark of 2009. Among SEC catchers a year ago, Fulmer stood one passed ball behind the leaders, including 2010 SEC All-Defensive Team and 2011 Preseason All-SEC team member Megan Yocke of Kentucky.
Adding power to her game, Fulmer posted her best slugging and on-base percentage last season. Working with new assistant coach Calvin Beamon, Fulmer hopes to continue that improvement this spring.
Sunshine State Flavor
The Gamecocks have players from all over the country, including at least one from 10 states. Behind South Carolina, Florida has the most players on the 2011 team, with one in each class now. Senior Laura Mendes leads the pack, with junior Kandyce Redondo and redshirt sophomore Audrey Broyles both in their third year on campus. Rounding out the Sunshine State quartet is freshman Dana Hathorn, who, hailing from Orlando, is the only player of the foursome not from the greater Palm Beach area.