Gamecocks Look For Wins In Series At No. 7/6 Tennessee
March 13, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
South Carolina hits the road again this weekend to play No. 7/6 Tennessee in a three-game series at Shari Parker Lee Stadium. Action is slated to start at 1 p.m. both days, with the doubleheader scheduled for Saturday.
Rough Start to SEC Play
The Gamecocks have not gotten things going yet in Southeastern Conference outings this year. The squad has lost its first five games in league play for the first time in program history. Previously, the longest it took to get one SEC victory was in 2006, when the squd won its fourth league contest. The Gamecocks have face some tough competition to start, losing to newly-minted No. 1 Florida in a three-game set last weekend and dropping the two games at 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Arkansas.
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 4.4 pitches per plate appearance. Just behind her is senior Jacqueline Wetherbee, who has seen 4.0 pitches in the early going. Sophomore P.J. Fulmer and freshman Lauren Lacked are tied for third at 3.9.
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.
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.
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 19 games, South Carolina has utilized 15 different defensive alignments and 18 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 14 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 two 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 458-148 (.756) 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. Tennessee
The Gamecocks are 15-20 against the Lady Vols all time, including going 7-11 at Tennessee's old stadium at Tyson Park. This will be South Carolina's first games at the new Shari Parker Lee Stadium, which is on the southwest part of the University of Tennessee campus. The Lady Vols have captured 13 straight meetings in the series.
Scouting the Tennessee Lady Vols
Tennessee is 21-3 on the season and is ranked seventh in the NFCA/USA Today poll and sixth in the USA Softball/ESPN.com rankings. Speed has been a staple of the Lady Vols' offense for years now, and this team is no exception. They have stolen 55 bases in 62 attempts this season, an average of over two steals per game. They hit .341 as a team, while they slug at a .529 clip. Tiffany Huff leads the attack at the plate, with a 1.471 OPS and hitting at a .493 batting average. Huff has six home runs and 46 RBI on the season. Five other Lady Vols also hit over .300, two of those above .400. Kelly Grieve and Lillian Hammond are those two, and they have stolen 17 and 16 bases, respectively. Jessica Spigner is second on the team with a .797 slugging percentage and 22 runs batted in.
This year's Tennessee squad seems to have their pitching sorted out. Cat Hosfield has taken over as the ace, going 16-3 with a 1.40 ERA. She has three shutouts and struck out 97 in 115 innings of work. Ashton Ward has a 1.62 ERA with a 3-0 record in 30.1 innings pitched. Defense really helps this unit out, as they have a .984 fielding percentage on the year. The team has committed just 11 errors in their 24 games.
The Last Time - South Carolina vs. Tennessee - March 19, 2008
Scoreless through eight innings, No. 8/9 Tennessee got two runs in the top of the ninth to down South Carolina, 2-0, in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader at Beckham Field. Game two was called in the fourth due to rain. In the ninth, Anita Manuma grounded to second base to lead off, but the ball went under Ashton Payne's glove on her backhand attempt to allow Manuma to reach. Lillian Hammond followed with a bunt that she beat out for a hit. Kelly Grieve followed and hit a sharp grounder to third that hit senior third baseman Becky Martinez's glove and bounded to shortstop Lindsay Walker, coming to cover third, who grabbed it to force Manuma. Pinch-hitter Chandra Mogan took a 1-2 pitch from Gamecock starter Melissa Hendon back thru the middle for a hit, plating Hammond. Two-time All-American Tonya Callahan followed with a perfectly-executed suicide squeeze, allowing Grieve to score. Hendon then got out of the inning when Shannon Doepking flew out to right. In the bottom of the eighth, Carolina had a golden opportunity to score. Martinez looped a double into right center to start the frame. Senior Chrissy Schoonmaker sacrificed Martinez to third. Gogreve reached first on a dropped pop-up by Lapicki to put runners on first and third with just one out. Junior Jacqueline Wetherbee pinch-hit for the Gamecocks, grounding the ball to Posey at second. Posey tagged Gogreve running by and sprinted to first ahead of Wetherbee for the double play, getting Tennessee out of the frame and keeping the game scoreless.