South Carolina Hits the Road for Midweek Showdown vs. Arkansas
March 9, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
The Carolina Gamecocks are looking to bounce back after being swept in the team's first Southeastern Conference series of the year, and they will try to do that on Wednesday at Arkansas. First pitch for the doubleheader at new Bogle Park is set for 3 p.m. CDT.
Familiar Place to Open SEC Road Action
Historically, the Gamecocks have done well during their first SEC road games of the year. The program has won the series in 10 of 12 years and holds a 26-12 (.684) mark during those meetings. What's peculiar is the fact that for the past four odd-numbered years, the Gamecocks' first road series has been in Arkansas. South Carolina went 2-1 during the 2001 season that started the trend, and it swept the three-game series in `03, `05 and `07. Take out those games in Fayetteville, and South Carolina has gone a more pedestrian 15-11 (.577) in the initial road league series each year.
Weather Wreaks Havoc on Gamecocks' Schedule
One large weather system took four games off South Carolina's schedule from Feb. 28-Mar. 2. Right after the Gamecocks completed their second game in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic, rain started falling in Columbus, Ga., and caused the cancellation of the rest of the Gamecocks' contests at South Commons Stadium. The back end of that front brought snow into the southeast, dumping over a half-foot of the white stuff in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Sunday night. As of Tuesday afternoon, that had yet to clear, once again wiping the previously-annual border battle between North and South Carolina from happening. The four rainouts matches the number of games the Garnet and Black lost to weather during the entire 2008 season.
South Carolina Splits Its Games in Rain-Shortened NFCA Leadoff Classic
Once again, things were altered for all teams scheduled to compete in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic, but it was more than just rain that altered the 2009 version. Snow wiped out the reworked Sunday schedule as well. The Gamecocks were among a handful of the 21 teams that got in at least two games during the tournament. South Carolina split its Friday outings, downing defending Conference USA champ Houston, 2-1, before falling to Illinois State, 7-0.
Garnet and Black Practicing (Some) Patience
A few of the Gamecocks have been patient at the plate this season, as two are seeing at least four pitches per plate appearance. Surprisingly, a freshman, Evan Childs, leads the way with 4.3 pitches per plate appearance. Just behind her is senior Jacqueline Wetherbee, who has seen 4.1 pitches in the early going. Sophomore Jill Semento and freshman Lauren Lacked are tied for third at 3.9.
Stubblefield Has Strong Weekend in Gamecock Invitational
Freshman centerfielder Kristen Stubblefield was a leader in the lineup during the home tournament, hitting a team-best .417 in the Gamecock Invitational. The Corona, Calif., native also had an .833 slugging percentage after hitting her first career triple and home run during the weekend. Her four runs scored also topped the team, while her three RBI stood second. The freshman also had a sacrifice fly and a sac bunt as well during the tourney.
For the season, Stubblefield has totaled six runs batted in and seven runs scored, both in the top three on the team.
Returners Reasserting Place on Top, At Least on a Few Lists
After letting the freshmen get all the publicity during the first weekend, the returning Gamecocks have come back to put themselves on top of many of the statistical lists through 17 games. Senior Ashton Payne leads the team in six major categories, including batting average, slugging percentage, , on-base percentage, hits, doubles and triples. But the freshmen still hold leads in numerous categories. Lauren Lackey tops the squad with two steals, while Evan Childs holds down the top spot in runs, home runs and RBI. The freshman pitchers continue to dominate their statistics, with Kierstyn White and Audrey Broyles leading in all positive categories.
Spreading Around the Love in Orlando
The Gamecocks went 5-0 in the UCF Early Bird Tournament, and they did it with a team approach. Only two starters on the weekend did not contribute a run, either by scoring one or driving one in, during the event. Freshman Evan Childs scored three runs to lead the team, while another rookie, Lauren Lackey, had the most RBI on the team while in Mickey Mouse's part of the country.
What a Debut!
Freshman Audrey Broyles had a day for the ages in her first game donning the Garnet and Black. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., freshman tossed a complete game, allowing just one earned run while fanning 14 Cougars. That is the highest number of K's recorded by a Gamecock in their debut, with the current records going back to 1996. What made Broyles' first game even better was her day at the plate. She went 1-for-3 with a two-RBI single in the first to help put the Gamecocks on top, 4-0.
Broyles continued her good work in the circle, going 3-0 during the UCF Early Bird Tournament. She tossed her first complete-game shutout while compiling 10 K's in the win over Bowling Green. Broyles also got wins in relief against Bradley and Texas-Arlington.
Is the Second Game of the Year Still a Debut if It's on the First Day?
Evan Childs came through with a big contest in just her second game in a South Carolina jersey. The Conway, S.C., product hit two game-tying home runs in the Gamecocks' 6-4 win in the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday against the College of Charleston. The first was a solo shot in the third to answer the Cougars' run in the top half of the frame. The last one was a three-run blast that knotted the contest at 4-4 in the fifth. That set the stage for Laura Mendes' go-ahead sacrifice fly in the sixth that was the difference in the contest.
More Parts Mean More Lineups? Stay Tuned
Last season, the Gamecocks seemingly never ran out the same nine in the same order. Reality was not far from the truth, as head coach Joyce Compton used the same defensive alignment in back-to-back games just three times all season. In all, South Carolina utilized 38 different units around the pitcher. Lineup order was a different matter entirely, as 43 different orders were trotted out in the 47-game season. But even with the larger roster (by three), there is only one more position player on the roster compared to 2008. Four of the additions will take the place of two pitchers, while six freshman position players take over for five departed seniors who played the field last year.
Through the first 17 games, South Carolina has utilized 14 different defensive alignments and 16 different batting orders. Defensively, the Gamecocks sent out the same eight in the field to start all three games against No. 2 Florida.
Look at Career List Possibilities in 2009
A few Gamecocks are looking to move onto or move up some career charts as we start 2009. Senior Ashton Payne has already got spots in the top 10 in stolen bases and triples, and she's close to adding hits and batting average to her list. She needs 16 hits in 2009 to tie for 10th all-time with Debralee Troesh, while six batting average points would push her ahead of Toinette Reed into 10th there. She needs one steal to tie for eighth with Dana Fulmer. Payne now has fourth place to herself on the triples list, but she would have to break the NCAA single-season record for triples to move any higher.
A couple of others are already eyeing positions in different charts. Senior Jacqueline Wetherbee needs three round-trippers to tie Jana Zimmerman and current assistant coach Adrianna Baggetta for ninth all-time on the home-run charts. And sophomore Jill Semento is close to landing on a painful list, as three more hit-by-pitches will put her in a tie for eighth with 10 in her short career.
Carolina in the Month of March Under Joyce Compton
In the Joyce Compton era, Carolina is 458-146 (.758) during the third month of the year. In 2008, South Carolina owned a 9-7 mark in March.
South Carolina in the SEC Stat Rankings (as of March 9)
The Gamecocks stand 11th in batting average at .236 as a team. They are also 11th in both on-base percentage (.300) and slugging percentage (.316). The squad has laid down 19 sacrifices, tied for fourth in the SEC, and connected for six sacrifice flies, good for fifth in the league. In the circle, things look much better. South Carolina's team ERA is sixth, while the staff's four saves are tied for the most in the conference. And the team's fielding percentage stands seventh. The Gamecocks have turned an SEC-best 10 double plays.
Individually, the pitchers have many rankings in the top of the league. Kierstyn White and Audrey Broyles rank ninth and 10th, respectively, in ERA. Broyles' 61 strikeouts rank eighth. White's three saves has her tied for the league lead. Offensively, only two Gamecocks have broken into the top 10. Ashton Payne's two triples tie for fifth, while Jill Semento's two sacrifice flies are knotted at fourth.
The Gamecocks Have Lots of Youth . . .
Head coach Joyce Compton has never had 10 newcomers enter her program in one year until this season. Nine freshmen (matching a record from 2005) and one transfer make up one of the youngest teams Compton has ever fielded. The most inexperience will be in the circle, as redshirt sophomore Krystle Robinson is the only pitcher back. She made 16 starts and 24 appearances overall. Three true freshmen and one transfer will vie to fill the over 220 or nearly 70 percent of the innings lost from last season.
. . . But They Also Bring Back Lots of Experience
But this is no green group as a whole. Out of 423 starts in the nine batting spots, over 67 percent of those starts return. The returning catchers started all but two games last season, most of any spot. Three returners started all but four games in left field, which stands second. At shortstop, junior Lindsay Walker started 41 of the 47 games, the third-highest percentage on the team. The positions losing the most starts are right field (32), third base (30) and first base (24).
South Carolina Picked to Finish Fourth in SEC East
In what should be familiar to Gamecock fans, the Southeastern Conference coaches selected the squad to finish fourth in the SEC Eastern Division. This is the sixth-consecutive year that South Carolina has ranked fourth in the preseason polling of the league's managers. Florida was chosen to win the East and the overall title, while Tennessee was picked second. Georgia was selected third, while Kentucky came in fifth. Alabama was the coaches' choice to win the SEC West this season.
Gamecocks All-Time vs. Arkansas
The Gamecocks and Razorbacks have met 33 times in history, with South Carolina owning a 24-9 (.727) record against Arkansas. That's the second-best mark against a league foe for Carolina, topped only by the Gamecocks' record against Kentucky (32-8, .800). In Fayetteville, the Garnet and Black are 10-3 all-time, but those wins came at old Lady'Back Field. Arkansas is one of two SEC schools (along with LSU) to open new stadiums in 2009.
Scouting the Arkansas Razorbacks
The Razorbacks, one of a record eight SEC teams to make last year's NCAA Tournament, have gone 11-9 during the first month of play, including a 2-2 mark at last weekend's Oklahoma State Mizuno Classic. Arkansas' success a year ago was built on offense, but the team this season ranks 10th in both batting average (.245) and on-base percentage (.317). But they do slug at a .405 clip, good for seventh in the SEC. The (don't call us Lady) Razorbacks have hit 30 doubles and 15 homers on the season. Senior Whitney Cloer leads the charge with a .355 batting average, .394 on-base percentage and .613 slugging percentage. All top the team, as well as her seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBI. Junior Jessica Bachkora is right behind in several categories with a .365 on-base percentage, six doubles, three homers and 12 RBI. Junior Brittany Robison has also hit three home runs in limited action.
Pitching has again been a problem for Arkansas. The team has an ERA of 3.86, last in the league by over a run. Miranda Dixon fronts the staff with a 6-2 record and a 2.64 ERA. She has thrown 61 of the 130.2 innings for the team this season. The Razorbacks have committed 26 errors, second-most in the SEC.
One noted difference between Arkansas and South Carolina: seven Razorbacks have played in all 20 games, including five starting in each contest, while the Gamecocks have seen just two players participate in all 17 games, and only one has started every game.
The Last Time - South Carolina vs. Arkansas - March 26, 2008
Melissa Hendon struck out 10 for the second game in a row in a 4-0 South Carolina victory over Arkansas on Sunday at Beckham Field. Hendon got a lot of help from shortstop Lindsay Walker, who went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI, which matches a career best. Ashton Payne also went 2-for-3, extending her hitting streak to 17 games. The Gamecocks wasted no time getting on the board, loading the bases with one out in the first ahead of third baseman Becky Martinez. She got hit by the 2-0 pitch from Arkansas starter Kim Jones, bringing home Payne. Lady'Back relief pitcher Katy Henry got a strikeout before Walker laced a double to left center, scoring Laura Mendes and Jessica Josker.