Carolina's Home SEC Schedule Starts with Tough Test vs. No. 14/15 LSU
March 12, 2010
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COLUMBIA, S.C. -
After a rough 10-game stretch away from the confines of Beckham Field, South Carolina looks to rebound as the squad is set to face No. 14/15 LSU this weekend at home. Saturday's doubleheader begins at 1 p.m., while Sunday's single game is slated for an early 12 p.m. start. All three games can be heard via the All-Access channel at GamecocksOnline.com, while you can also follow the action on Gametracker.
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 team has won two mercy rule-shortened games (Coastal Carolina and North Florida), while another went seven but was a 15-1 Gamecock win. The squad owns two season bests in the SEC this year, including eight doubles in the Coastal Carolina victory.
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.
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.
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 these six offensive categories: batting average (.385), hits (25), triples (1), RBI (15), on-base percentage (.412) and slugging percentage (.508). Mendes is also tied with Evan Childs for first on the team and third in the SEC with six doubles.
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. She's third on the squad with 10 RBI, posting two doubles early as well.
Need Some Help in the Pinch
The shorter bench for the Gamecocks this season has shown up mostly in pinch-hitting situations. In 11 plate appearances, South Carolina pinch hitters are 0-for-10 with two RBI. Audrey Broyles brought home a run with a bases-loaded walk, while Kaitlin Westfall also has a run batted in off the bench. Last season, Gamecock pinch hitters hit .179 with eight RBI.
Runs Coming in Bunches
This season, South Carolina has scored nine or more runs in four separate games. The last season this happened was in 2005, when the squad posted 15, 13, 12, 10 and nine runs in games during the year.
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.
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 Ace Is Here
There was chatter that the Gamecocks would be searching for an ace this season. But too many discounted the squad's top pitcher from a year ago, as Audrey Broyles has undoubtedly reclaimed that role. The sophomore stands sixth in the SEC with a 0.99 ERA, while she's fourth with an opponent batting average of .161. Her 5/1 K/BB ratio and 45 strikeouts in 42.1 innings of work are head and shoulders above her teammates. She's tossed the only two shutouts and three of the six complete games. She struck out a season-high 11 at Florida Atlantic, which was the back end of consecutive one-hitters, the first time for a Gamecock pitcher to do that since Trinity Johnson did in the 1997 NCAA Regional.
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 spring has not been great so far for Chastain. While she leads with four wins and tops the squad with two saves, she ranks third in ERA at 3.08 and has 17 strikeouts against 15 walks in 38.2 innings. She has also hit six batters and tossed three illegal pitches with runners on base.
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.
Childs stands second on the team in slugging percentage (.421) and ranks third on the squad in batting average (.281) and fifth in on-base percentage (.33). Her six doubles are tied for first on the team and third in the SEC while her 11 RBI stand second.
Carolina in the Month of March under Joyce Compton
In the Joyce Compton era, Carolina is 461-161 (.741) during the third month of the year.
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.
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.
The pitchers have allowed 22 doubles, but only two triples has been given up by the Gamecocks in 2010. The outfield also has eight assists, with the three listed above all making at least one. Voigt has half of the total.
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.
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.
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.
Scouting the LSU Tigers
LSU kicks off SEC play with an 18-4 record overall and a No. 14 ranking in the latest National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA)/USA Today poll. The Tigers stand in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories, ranking highest in walks (T-1st, 86), hit by pitch (1st, 28) and doubles (T-2nd, 30). LSU has attempted 56 steals, second in the SEC, successfully swiping the bag on 54 attempts. The pitching staff leads the SEC with a 0.91 ERA, helped by a defense that has a .975 fielding percentage, second in the league.
Kirsten Shortridge leads the club witha .377 batting average and 18 runs scored. Ashley Langoni has provided the power to the order, slugging at a .650 clip with six home runs and 16 RBI, all tops among the Tigers. In the circle, Cody Trahan has a 0.21 ERA and a 5-0 record, striking out 37 while walking just one in 33 innings, but the ace has been freshman Rachele Fico. The top pitching recruit in the country according to some services, Fico holds a 1.01 ERA and a 7-2 record, fanning 61 battters in 55.2 innings while only walking nine. Opponents hit .158 against the frosh.
Gamecocks All-Time vs. LSU
The Bayou Bengals own a 28-14 advantage in the series, including a 6-9 record at Beckham Field. In SEC regular season games, South Carolina is just 10-24 against LSU. Last season, the Tigers swept the series in Baton Rouge with three shutouts.
The Last Series - South Carolina vs. LSU - April 25-26, 2009
LSU shut out South Carolina in a three-game set at the new Tiger Park, taking a pair of 8-0 wins in five before taking the finale, 4-0.
Scoring seven of eight runs with two outs, the No. 19/21 LSU Tigers took a 8-0 win in five innings over the South Carolina Gamecocks in game one of a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at Tiger Park.Tiger centerfielder Kirsten Shortridge went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and five RBI to lead the Tigers. P.J. Fulmer and Lauren Lackey both had singles for the Gamecocks.
Seven unearned runs on five Gamecock errors doomed South Carolina to a 8-0 loss in five innings to No. 19/21 LSU in game two at Tiger Park on Saturday afternoon.
South Carolina got a hit to start the game but not much more as the Gamecocks fell to No. 19/21 LSU, 4-0, in the final game of a three-game series at new Tiger Park. The Tigers put three runs on the board in the fourth, getting an RBI triple from Juliana Santos, an RBI groundout from Ashley Applegate and an Anissa Young RBI single. The fourth run came in the fifth when LSU strung together three consecutive singles, the final coming from Santos to plate Kirsten Shortridge, who started the sequence with a two-out hit.