March 30, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
A record setting and historic 1997 softball season made a huge impact in the lives of the South Carolina Gamecocks after winning the inaugural SEC Regular Season and Tournament Championships, while enjoying a NCAA record 38 game win streak and berth in the Women’s College World Series. South Carolina is honoring the 20th anniversary of that team throughout the 2017 season, culminating in reunion festivities the weekend of April 21-23. That season continues to have a lasting impact in the lives of the former student-athletes, including Kendra McCutcheon Stout.
“Looking back now, it was such a wonderful experience that molded a lot of who I am now,” McCutcheon Stout said. “The memories I have were just about the excitement I had to go out and play with the team. Every player on the team was committed to being ‘in it to win it.’ That was the quote we used all year. It was just a great passionate group of girls to be around.”
The Gamecocks went 63-5 that season. While there were many stars at different positions, the former infielder who is now a mother of three girls and a branch manager at Regions Bank in Greenville, S.C., said one of the keys to success was more about team chemistry.
“We absolutely loved being together,” McCutcheon Stout said. “We had many road trips and just had a blast together, on and off the field. We built so many friendships that we continue to have, even after all of these years. It was a special group. When things weren’t going well, we worked through it together. If it meant staying on the field for extra hours, there were other players willing to do that with you.”
After a 2-2 start that season, the Gamecocks rattled off 38 straight wins. While nobody wanted the streak to end, McCutcheon Stout said she didn’t remember feeling any pressure to keep it going.
“Coach (Joyce) Compton really taught all of us to ‘win every pitch,’” McCutcheon Stout said. “We really did focus on each pitch and the simplicity of that. By doing so, it kept our focus in the right place and off of the streak. We just dealt with it pitch by pitch and the win streak was a result of that”
Winning the first SEC regular season and tournament championships is an honor that McCutcheon Stout doesn’t take lightly.
“It means the world to us to be a part of such a great conference and to introduce softball into the conference,” McCutcheon Stout said. “Looking how much it has grown now and the competition throughout the conference is amazing. It’s top notch.”
She really molded us into wonderful individuals, not just athletes.
With all of the team accolades, there isn’t one particular game that sticks out as the most memorable for McCutcheon Stout.
“Just the whole experience of going to the World Series, and finishing the season ranked fourth in the nation is what I remember,” McCutcheon Stout said. “When we won the regional, it’s hard to put words to describe it. There was such excitement for each of us.”
The mother of three still enjoys the game and has coached youth U10 and U12 teams for five years.
“It’s been a part of my life,” McCutcheon Stout said. “I’m absolutely passionate about the sport. I’m a fundamental freak. I love the younger kids and being able to teach them the right way. I’ve found a lot of excitement in doing that. I try to let the kids know that I really care about them as a person, not only as an athlete.”
A lot of what she teaches, stems from the knowledge gained as a Gamecock under head coach Joyce Compton.
“What I remember most about her was that, not only did she teach us so much about technique and things like that, but she also taught us so much about work ethic and discipline,” McCutcheon Stout said. “She really molded us into wonderful individuals, not just athletes. A lot of what she taught me, I tried to transfer over to my coaching as well.”
McCutcheon Stout has been able to get back to South Carolina home games from time to time. She likes what she sees and is proud to be a part of the program’s rich history.
“That new stadium is phenomenal,” McCutcheon Stout said. “I love coming back to games when I can. I can’t wait to see everybody again.”
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