Gamecocks Head Back West to Face No. 8/5 Alabama
Sunday's game on FSN scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT first pitch
March 19, 2010
Complete Release in PDF Format
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
For the second time this season, the South Carolina softball team heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala., this time for a Southeastern Conference series at No. 8/5 Alabama. Saturday's doubleheader is set for a 1 p.m. CDT first pitch, while Sunday's single game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. CDT start. All three games can be followed on Gametracker or via the Gamecock All-Access audio broadcast. Sunday's game will be televised by FOX Sports Net, with Dave Neal and Cheri Kempf on the call.
South Carolina vs. Ranked Opponents
In history against foes ranked in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll, South Carolina has an 86-149-1 (.367) mark, including a 31-74-1 (.297) record against top-10 teams. In 2010, the Gamecocks are 0-5 against ranked opponents, 0-2 against top-10 squads. Last season, the Gamecocks went 2-12 versus top-25 teams, with the two wins coming over a fourth-ranked Alabama squad on Easter weekend at Beckham Field.
Carolina in the Month of March
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 406-191-3 (.679) in the third month of the year and 364-167 (.685) in the Joyce Compton era. This year, the Gamecocks are at 1-10 in March. In SEC play, the Gamecocks are 72-71 (.503) in this month.
The Gamecocks will continue on this season without its top starter, as sophomore Audrey Broyles has been shut down due to injury. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., native was on pace for an amazing season after tossing two consecutive one-hitters in the Florida Atlantic Strike Out Cancer Tournament. Through 32.1 innings of work, Broyles allowed just two earned runs while posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 13:1. But her control vanished in her next two starts, going five innings in each while walking six and fanning six. The ace role now falls to sophomore Kelsey Goodwin, who has been effective but has yet to collect a win on the season.
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, the Gamecocks began the season hot at the plate. 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 single-game 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 six offensive categories: batting average (.370), hits (30), triples (1), RBI (17), on-base percentage (.393) and slugging percentage (.494). Mendes is also tied with Evan Childs for first on the team and second in the SEC with eight 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 has started every game at catcher again this season, and she ranks third on the squad with 12 runs batted in on the year.
Need Some Help in the Pinch
The shorter bench for the Gamecocks this season has shown up mostly in pinch-hitting situations. In 12 plate appearances, South Carolina pinch hitters are 1-for-11 with two RBI. Kandyce Redondo broke the ice in the first Arkansas game with an infield single. Earlier in the year, 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 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 3.73 and has 19 strikeouts against 21 walks in 45.0 innings. She has also hit seven batters and tossed four 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 (.384), while her one stolen base is tied for second on the squad. Her eight doubles are tied for first on the team and second in the SEC while her 13 RBI stand second on the squad.
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 30 doubles, but only three triples have 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 an NCAA Regional and advanced into an 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 Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama stands at 19-7 on the season and eighth in the NFCA/USA Today Coaches Poll. The Crimson Tide won the series at No. 4 Georgia last weekend before splitting a midweek SEC doubleheader at Kentucky. Offense is Alabama's strong suit, as the club ranks fourth in the SEC in slugging percentage (.514) and fifth in on-base percentage (.397). Kayla Braud leads the team in batting average and runs scored, while her 12 stolen bases stand second. Cassie Reilly-Boccia and Charlotte Morgan provide the thump, both with slugging percentages over .700, while Morgan leads the club with seven home runs. Reilly-Boccia also tops the Tide with a .584 on-base percentage.
The pitching staff ranks ninth in the SEC in ERA and seventh in opponent batting average. Veteran Kelsi Dunne leads the staff with a 9-4 record and 127 strikeouts in 79.0 innings pitched, but long balls have been an issue, as she's given up 11. Lauren Sewell tops Alabama with a 2.12 ERA, going 5-0 with 41 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.
Gamecocks All-Time vs. Alabama
Alabama owns the all-time series advantage at 23-16, but since 2004, the Tide have dominated with a 3-15 mark. However, last season the Gamecocks took the season series, two games to one. All-time against the Tide in Tuscaloosa, South Carolina is 4-12.
The Last Series - South Carolina vs. Alabama - April 10-11, 2009
South Carolina stunned the fourth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide over Easter weekend, taking the series two games to one.
Laura Mendes connected for her second walk-off hit of the season, leading the Gamecocks to a 3-2, eighth-inning win over No. 4 Alabama at Beckham Field in the first game on Friday. With two down in the eighth, Mendes came through with a clutch hit to center, allowing Evan Childs to score from second. Childs reached on a fielder's choice and moved to second on Lauren Lackey's sacrifice bunt. Audrey Broyles, pinch-hitting from the flex spot, drew a two-out walk, setting up Mendes' heroics.
Alabama scored four on Friday night and three more on Saturday to take the second game of the series, 7-0, over South Carolina. When play resumed on Saturday after a 15-hour break due to thunderstorms coming through the Columbia area, Alabama added three runs in the seventh, the first coming when Kelley Montalvo scored from second on an error by the Gamecock first baseman. Charlotte Morgan came up with runners at second and third and singled back through the middle to drive in both runners.
South Carolina came back again on No. 4 Alabama, this time on Kristen Stubblefield's two-RBI double, to propel the Gamecocks to a 6-5 win over the Crimson Tide. A 5-4 Alabama lead stood until the bottom of the sixth, when South Carolina struck again. A hit by pitch of Jacqueline Wetherbee started the comeback, and Laura Mendes got a one-out hit to put the potential go-ahead run on base. Cagney Davis delivered a pinch hit off Morgan to load the bags. Stubblefield knocked the ball down the left field line fair by two feet for a double, pushing home the tying and go-ahead runs.