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South Caroina Heads West to Battle the Magnolia State's Bulldogs
Freshman Kristen Stubblefield and South Carolina look to stay on a roll as they play at Mississippi State this weekend in a three-game series.
Freshman Kristen Stubblefield and South Carolina look to stay on a roll as they play at Mississippi State this weekend in a three-game series.

April 17, 2009

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - Looking to ride the momentum from last weekend's series victory over No. 4 Alabama, the South Carolina Gamecocks head west to square off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Saturday's doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. CDT, while Sunday's single game is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch.

South Carolina Takes Down No. 4 Alabama
The Gamecocks bounced back in a big way on the week of Easter, wrapping up their action with a series win over fourth-ranked Alabama. A national semifinalist last year, the Crimson Tide fell at the hands of South Carolina, 3-2, in eight innings in game one, and in the final contest, 6-5. It was South Carolina's first series win over the Tide since 2001, when the Gamecocks got a pair of one-run wins in the final regular season series of the year. It also was the Garnet and Black's first series win over a top-five team since 2004 when South Carolina took a home mid-week set from Georgia, also winning the first and third game of the series. All-time against the top five in the country, South Carolina is now 14-37 (.275).

Nuggets From the Win Over Coastal Carolina
A lot of big things happened on April 7 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) rule since topping Charlotte, 8-0, in six on March 1, 2007. The 10 runs are 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.

Gamecocks All-Time vs. Mississippi State
The Gamecocks own a narrow 20-19 advantage in the all-time meetings against Mississippi State, which date back to 1985. In games since the Bulldogs reinstated the program in 1997, South Carolina still holds a one-game advantage, 19-18. The series is even in both Columbia and Starkville, including an 8-8 mark at the MSU Softball Field. The Bulldogs have won six straight, including a sweep in 2007 in Starkville.

Scouting the Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State enters the weekend with a 21-21 overall record and a 3-14 mark in SEC play. While they are last in the league standings, the Bulldogs did something no other team had accomplished this year: winning at Georgia, which they did on Wednesday night in the second game of the doubleheader. MSU is built around a speedy offense, led by Chelsea Bramlett. She holds a .478 batting average, highest in the SEC, and has stolen 43 bases in 48 attempts, the most steals in the league. She's scored 40 times this year, more than double her closest competitor on her own squad. Ka'ili Smith and Ali Bainbridge are second in batting average, tied at .336, with Bainbridge providing most of the power in the lineup with a .520 slugging percentage and four home runs. Smith reaches base at a .416 clip, second highest among the Maroon and White. State's defense is solid, making just 31 errors on the year.

Pitching has been somewhat of an issue for the Bulldogs. Freshman Lindsay Dunlap is the team's best starter, however, she is 12-12 with a 3.10 ERA, striking out 125 batters in 156 innings. Kelsey Nurnberg is the No. 2, holding a 9-7 record with a 4.05 ERA. Nurnberg is just under a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while Dunlap is just above a 2:1 mark.

The Last Time - South Carolina vs. Mississippi State - April 13, 2008
Mississippi State scored four runs in the second and never looked back, defeating South Carolina, 9-1, in six innings to complete the series sweep at Beckham Field. The Gamecocks got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases on consecutive singles by Adele Voigt, Laura Mendes and Jill Semento. Voigt scored on Jessica Josker's fielder's choice, cutting the lead to 5-1.

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 4.2 pitches per plate appearance. Just behind her is sophomore Jill Semento, who has seen 4.1 pitches. Two Gamecocks are tied for third at 4.0 pitchers per plate appearance, including freshman Kaitlin Westfall and senior Jacqueline Wetherbee.

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 triples. Sophomore Laura Mendes now leads the team in hits and doubles and is part of a three-way tie along with freshman Kristen Stubblefield and Payne with two triples. Sophomore Jill Semento leads the squad in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and RBI. But the freshmen still hold leads in numerous categories. Lauren Lackey tops the squad with 10 walks and is tied with Evan Childs with two steals, while 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.

Carolina in the Month of April Under Joyce Compton
In the Joyce Compton era, Carolina is 291-141-1 (.673) 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.

Weather Wreaks Havoc on Gamecocks' Schedule
One large weather system took four games off South Carolina's schedule from Feb. 28-Mar. 4. 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 surpass 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 10 games left on its schedule, which would be 11 less than 2005.

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 stormed 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.

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 Georgia while dropping doubleheaders at both 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Arkansas and then-No. 7/6-ranked Tennessee.

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 35 games, South Carolina has utilized 23 different defensive alignments and 33 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. Sophomore Jill Semento has landed on a painful list, tying for eighth in hit by pitches with 10 in her short career. Senior Jacqueline Wetherbee needs one more round-tripper to tie Jana Zimmerman and current assistant coach Adrianna Baggetta for ninth all-time on the home-run charts.

South Carolina in the SEC Stat Rankings (as of games played on April 15)
The Gamecocks stand 11th in batting average at .223 as a team. They are also 11th in both on-base percentage (.299) and slugging percentage (.304). The squad has laid down 32 sacrifices and connected for seven sacrifice flies, both seventh in the SEC. South Carolina's team ERA is ninth, while the staff's five saves are the most in the conference. And the team's fielding percentage stands sixth in the league. The Gamecocks have turned 16 double plays, second in the SEC.

Individually, Audrey Broyles' 121 strikeouts rank ninth, while her 2.49 ERA is 11th. White's three saves has her tied for second in the league, and Broyles is tied for fourth with two.

In SEC games only, the squad is last in all three "slash" stats (.197 batting average, .289 on-base percentage and .259 slugging percentage). South Carolina also stands 11th in ERA at 5.15 and allow opponents to hit at a .313 clip, which is now 10th in the league.

Extra Innings Breakdown
Last season, South Carolina went 2-3 in extra inning games, dropping two of those that went to nine innings. This season, the Gamecocks are 4-1 in extended games, including wins in two 11-inning contests.

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 10 runs batted in and 11 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).



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