Gamecocks Take On No. 4 Alabama During Strike Out Cancer Event
April 9, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
Splitting two non-conference games while watching a third get rained out, South Carolina goes back into Southeastern Conference action for a three-game series against the fourth-ranked and Western Division leading Alabama Crimson Tide. The weekend will also be used to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research, as the Gamecocks look to "Strike Out Cancer" in conjunction with the series.
First pitch for Friday's doubleheader is scheduled for 5 p.m., while Saturday is set for a special 2 p.m. start time.
Nuggets From the Win Over Coastal Carolina
A lot of big things happened on Tuesday night for the Gamecocks, as they got a 10-2 win in six innings over in-state rival Coastal Carolina. It was the first game shortened by the Gamecocks via the mercy (eight-run lead after five) since topping Charlotte, 8-0, in six on March 1, 2007. The 10 runs is the most since South Carolina's 11-0 win on Feb. 22, 2007 against the College of Charleston.
Individually, the Gamecocks put together three extra-base hits for the second-consecutive game. Sophomore Jill Semento hit her first home run on the year and compiled five RBI, the most for a Gamecock since McKenna Hughes did the same against Georgia on April 15, 2007.
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. Now the squad has lost an SEC game, as rain in Knoxville shortened the Tennessee series from three to two games. And another non-conference game was washed away against Winthrop on April 2.
The six rainouts surpasses the number of games the Garnet and Black lost to weather during the entire 2008 season. It's the most games lost by South Carolina since 2005, when 10 games were cancelled and another declared a tie thanks to rain. That team still got in 56 games, but this year's squad has just 14 games left on its schedule, which would be 11 less than 2005.
Rough Start to SEC Play
The Gamecocks took their time to get things going in SEC play. The squad lost its first seven games in league play for the first time in program history before breaking through with a win in the first game of the doubleheader against Mississippi. Previously, the longest it took to get one SEC victory was in 2006, when the squad won its fourth league contest. The Gamecocks have faced some tough competition in its 1-11 league start, getting swept in three games by then-No. 2 (now No. 1) Florida and then-No. 9 (now No. 7/9) Georgia while dropping doubleheaders at both 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Arkansas and then-No. 7/6-ranked Tennessee.
Garnet and Black Practicing (Some) Patience
A few of the Gamecocks have been patient at the plate this season, as three 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 are senior Jacqueline Wetherbee and sophomore Jill Semento, who have both seen 4.0 pitches. Junior Adele Voigt, sophomore P.J. Fulmer and freshman Lauren Lackey are tied for fourth at 3.9.
Eight-Run Inning And No Win? Yeah, It Really Happened
After South Carolina won its first game in SEC play in 2009, Ole Miss came back to take a 7-0 lead going into the home half of the fifth. The Gamecocks came back to not only tie the game but take the lead with an eight-run inning. Problem was, the game didn't end there. The Rebels came back with five runs to take the win, 12-8. The last time South Carolina lost a game where it scored eight or more runs was 2005, when the team fell, 10-8, at Auburn in the first game of the doubleheader on March 26.
The good news was South Carolina scored eight runs in a game for the first time since March 3, 2007. That contest against Charlotte was also the last time the program put up eight in one inning, as they closed out the game in the sixth inning with the offensive explosion. The Gamecocks last scored more than eight in an inning back in 2005, when they hung 11 in an inning against South Dakota State on March 5, 2005.
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. Senior Ashton Payne leads the team in batting average and is tied for the lead in hits and triples. Sophomore Laura Mendes now leads the team in doubles and slugging percentage and has tied Payne in hits and is part of a three-way tie along with freshman Kristen Stubblefield with two triples. Sophomore Jill Semento leads the squad in on-base percentage and RBI. But the freshmen still hold leads in numerous categories. Lauren Lackey tops the squad with two steals and nine walks, while Evan Childs holds down the top spot in runs and home runs. The freshman pitchers continue to dominate their statistics, with Kierstyn White and Audrey Broyles leading in all positive categories.
More Parts Mean More Lineups? Seems That Way
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.
That hasn't changed the mixing and matching tendencies, though. Through the first 31 games, South Carolina has utilized 22 different defensive alignments and 30 different batting orders.
Look at Career List Possibilities in 2009
A couple of Gamecocks are looking to move onto or move up some career charts. Senior Jacqueline Wetherbee needs two 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 one more hit-by-pitches will put her in a tie for eighth with 10 in her short career.
Carolina in the Month of April Under Joyce Compton
In the Joyce Compton era, Carolina is 288-144-1 (.666) during the fourth month of the year. Last season, the Gamecocks went 4-9 in April, which included dropping the final nine, all in SEC play.
South Carolina in the SEC Stat Rankings (as of games played on April 8)
The Gamecocks stand 11th in batting average at .221 as a team. They are also 11th in both on-base percentage (.293) and slugging percentage (.299). The squad has laid down 28 sacrifices and connected for seven sacrifice flies, good for eighth and seventh, respectively, in the SEC. South Carolina's team ERA is 10th, while the staff's four saves are tied for the most in the conference. And the team's fielding percentage stands sixth in the league. The Gamecocks have turned 14 double plays, tied for second in the SEC.
Individually, Audrey Broyles' 110 strikeouts rank eighth. White's three saves has her tied for second in the league.
In SEC games only, the squad is last in all three "slash" stats (.192 batting average, .277 on-base percentage and .251 slugging percentage). South Carolina also stands 11th in ERA at 5.57 and allow opponents to hit at a .321 clip.
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.
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 eight runs batted in and 10 runs scored, both in the top four 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 against the College of Charleston. 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.
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, the 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. Alabama
Alabama owns a 22-14 advantage all-time in the series dating back to 1997. The Crimson Tide have taken 14 straight, with the last Gamecock win coming on April 17, 2004 in Tuscaloosa. In the meetings at Beckham Field, the Gamecocks are 6-10, including dropping the last seven.
Scouting the Alabama Crimson Tide
The fourrh-ranked team in all three national polls, Alabama also comes to Columbia as the leader in the SEC Western Division with a 10-4 league record. Everything starts with the offense for the Tide, with Brittany Rogers setting the table. The senior has a .430 batting average and has stolen 32 bases in 36 attempts over 33 games this year. Third baseman Kelley Monntalvo provides most of the thump, hitting 10 doubles, three triples and five home runs, which computes to a .714 slugging percentage. She has 25 RBI, which is fourth on the team. Charlotte Morgan hits .379, third-best on the squad, and leads the team with 33 runs batted in. Whitney Larsen has a team-best seven home runs, while she is tied with Cassia Reilly-Boccia for second among the Crimson Tide with 27 RBI. In total, nine Alabama players have averages over .300, but two players start with marks under .200 (Kellie Eubanks and Ashley Holcombe).
Pitching has been a strength for Alabama as well. Kelsi Dunne, the reigning consensus national player of the week, holds a 16-1 mark behind a 1.30 ERA. She's fanned 148 in 113.1 innings of work, has a save, and holds a strikeout-to-walk ratio just shy of 3:1. Morgan still ranks as the No. 2 starter, compiling a 9-5 record with a 2.70 ERA. Morgan's strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.4:1. Amanda Locke has been strong as well, with a 1.79 ERA and a 7-0 record.
Defensively, the Tide are strong, making just 25 errors in 38 games. The one weakness on the infield appears at shortstop, as Eubanks has made seven errors in 103 chances.
The Last Time - South Carolina vs. Alabama - April 20, 2008
The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide completed a three-game sweep of South Carolina with a 6-0 win on Sunday afternoon in front of 2,145 spectators at the Alabama Softball Complex. The Gamecocks had their chance to get on the board in the sixth, as first baseman Jacqueline Wetherbee led off with a walk and moved to third on Ashton Payne's double into left center. But the Gamecocks could not break through, as Alabama starter Chrissy Owens got two ground balls to second and a strikeout to get out of the inning. Gamecock pitcher Melissa Hendon picked up the loss, allowing six hits and six runs, four earned, in four innings. She walked two and struck out one. Owens scattered three hits and a walk over seven innings to move her record to a perfect 12-0.