Gamecocks Open 2002 Softball Season At FSU Tournament

 

February 7, 2002

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Gamecocks will open its 2002 softball season on the road this weekend at the Seminole Challenge in Tallahassee, Fla. USC will first play Louisville on Friday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. then follow with two games on Sat., matching up against Florida Atlantic at 11 a.m. and 15th-ranked Florida State at 1 p.m. On Sunday, the Gamecocks will wrap up the tournament by facing 9th-ranked Washington. The two teams met three times last year with South Carolina winning two of the match-ups.

"Obviously this is an exciting time of the year. Everyone is anxious to play and to get the season started," said head coach Joyce Compton. "In the early weeks we should be able to get a strong feel of where we really are as a team and individually. There are still some players that we need to figure out exactly what role they will play."

After earning the SEC Eastern Division title in 2001, one player who knows her role is senior All-American pitcher, Megan Matthews. The Greer, S.C. native finished the season with a 1.06 ERA and 23 wins in 45 appearances. This season, Matthews has the chance to become USC's all-time leader in appearances, innings pitched, complete games and strikeouts.

The Lady Gamecocks will be the first opponent for the Louisville Cardinals as well.

"Louisville will open their season with us, so that is good in the sense that we will be two teams playing for the first time this season," said Compton. "The other teams already have some game experience under their belt and sometimes that is an advantage."

The Cardinals completed its second season of play in 2001 with a fourth-place finish in Conference USA play and a 40-26 record. They return with their lead player Melissa Jacobo, who ranked second in Conference USA in hitting with a .366 batting average and led the league with 20 doubles.

Florida Atlantic comes to the tournament with a 5-0 record posting wins over Northwestern, South Florida and Tennessee. Owls' senior pitcher Nicole Myers, who has led FAU in every pitching category for two straight years, also led the nation in strikeouts per seven innings (10.5) last season.

USC will meet the Seminoles for the first time since 1998, when Carolina defeated FSU 3-0. The series between the two teams is currently tied 18-18. FSU has reached an NCAA regional final for the last two years. Contributing to that success is the return of pitcher Leslie Malerich, reigning ACC Player of the Year. Malerich recorded 26 wins and the nation's tenth-best ERA (0.72) last year.

The Gamecocks will meet their second-highest ranked opponent, Washington, in their final game of the tournament. The Huskies enter the weekend with a 5-0 record, including wins over San Diego State, a Top 25 team. Washington's weapons include Tia Bollinger who is 3-0 in three appearances and freshman Ashley Boek who earned her first career win by throwing a no-hitter against San Jose St.

Following the Seminole Challenge, Carolina will return to Columbia for their home opener on Wed., Feb. 13 with a doubleheader against Georgia Southern. The game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Beckham Field.