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South Carolina Hits Road for Last Time with Critical Series at No. 19/21 LSU

 

April 24, 2009

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Carolina Gamecocks wrap up a seven-game road swing at LSU this weekend. The games against the 19th/21st-ranked Tigers begin at 1 p.m. CDT on both Saturday and Sunday at new Tiger Park.

A Tough Spot, For Sure
South Carolina enters the weekend with a slim hope of making the SEC Tournament, held this season at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. Currently 11th in the league's overall standings, the Gamecocks are 2 1/2 games in back of Auburn, who would be the eight seed if play ended today, and three behind Kentucky, who stands seventh. The problem for the Garnet and Black is the fact they have to pass not only the Tigers but the two Magnolia State schools, Mississippi and Mississippi State, as well. Another issue is the tiebreakers, which both Mississippi State and Auburn hold over the Gamecocks. Simply, the "magic" number for the Gamecocks to stay alive at the moment is four, meaning any combination of South Carolina losses and Auburn or Kentucky wins that total four would end the Gamecocks' postseason hopes.

Gamecocks Put Together Another Successful Year Out of Conference
For the 13th-consecutive year since the SEC started its sponsorship of softball, the Gamecocks have put together a winning non-conference record in the regular season. The 2009 squad has posted the third-best non-league record of 15-3 together this season. That's behind just the 2004 and 1997 squads, who both lost just two non-SEC games.

Gamecocks All-Time vs. LSU
The Tigers and Gamecocks have met 39 times prior to Saturday's doubleheader, and LSU owns a 25-14 advantage in the series that dates back to 1982. All time in Baton Rouge, the Gamecocks are 4-12, last winning a game on the bayou on April 6, 2007. South Carolina, who almost has to win the series to have a shot at a bid for the SEC Tournament, won just one set at the old Tiger Park, that coming in a doubleheader sweep in 1997.

Scouting the Louisiana State Tigers
LSU comes into the weekend on a small slide, losing their last four, including getting swept at home last weekend by top-ranked Florida. Offense is the strength of LSU's team, as they hold a .286 batting average and .379 on-base percentage. But power has not been their forte, as they rank seventh in the league with a .388 slugging percentage. Kristen Shortridge is the Tigers' leading hitter, compiling a .396 batting average and a .487 slugging percentage. She's also stolen 20 bases in 25 attempts, best on the team. Juliana Santos has scored a team-best 32 runs, while Rachel Mitchell tops the Tigers with 30 RBI and a .450 on-base percentage. In SEC play, Jazz Jackson has come on to hit .356 and score 10 runs.

The Tigers use Cody Trahan and Brittany Mack as their starting pitchers, with Mack leading the team with a 11-3 record. Both have thrown over 100 innings and have struck out exactly 109 hitters. Mack is just a little wilder, walking 68 hitters compared to 53 for Trahan. Casey Faile has been the relief ace, compiling a 1.59 ERA in 48.1 innings of work. She's yet to allow an earned run in SEC play in six appearances and 14.1 innings.

The Last Time - South Carolina vs. LSU - May 4, 2008
Tiger starter Cody Trahan tossed a two-hitter, handing No. 15/16 LSU a 9-0 win in six innings over South Carolina at Beckham Field. LSU chased Carolina starter Krystle Robinson after just one out. She retired the leadoff hitter before giving up back-to-back singles to Shannon Stein and Rachel Mitchell. The duo both advanced into scoring position on Robinson's error and scored on Quinlan Duhon's single to center. The Gamecocks turned to Melissa Hendon, who allowed an RBI double to Killian Roessner before inducing a ground out and a fly out to get out of the inning.

Garnet and Black Practicing (Some) Patience
A few of the Gamecocks have been patient at the plate this season, but only one is seeing at least four pitches per plate appearance. That is, surprisingly, freshman Evan Childs, who leads the way with 4.2 pitches per plate appearance. Five Gamecocks are tied at 3.9 pitches per time at the plate.

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, doubles and slugging percentage 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, walks and RBI. And Adele Voigt tops the squad with three stolen bases. But the freshmen still hold leads in a few offensive categories. Evan Childs holds down the top spot in runs and home runs, while Kristen Stubblefield has taken more hit by pitches than anyone else. 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 293-143-1 (.672) 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. So far in 2009, South Carolina is 6-4 since the start of the month.

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 39 games, South Carolina has utilized 24 different defensive alignments and 36 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 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 (First) 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 rule (eight-run lead after five) 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.

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.

South Carolina in the SEC Stat Rankings (as of games played on April 22)
The Gamecocks stand 11th in batting average at .224 as a team. They are also 11th in both on-base percentage (.299) and slugging percentage (.310). The squad has laid down 39 sacrifices and connected for seven sacrifice flies, good for fourth and seventh, respectively in the SEC. South Carolina's team ERA is ninth, while the staff's six saves are the most in the conference. And the team's fielding percentage stands sixth in the league. The Gamecocks have turned 18 double plays, second in the SEC.

Individually, Audrey Broyles' 127 strikeouts rank 10th, while Broyles and White are tied for second in the league with three saves.

In SEC games only, the squad is last in all three "slash" stats (.201 batting average, .285 on-base percentage and .268 slugging percentage). South Carolina also stands 11th in ERA at 5.13 and allow opponents to hit at a .318 clip, also 11th 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 5-1 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 13 runs batted in and 14 runs scored, both in the top three 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.

Did You Know?
This will be for some miscellanous facts learned this season. First up, did you know the trip from Columbia to Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, S.C., lasts exactly as long as the movie Major League?...From the trip to Knoxville, we learned that Lindsay Walker's last game at third base prior to that day was when she was 12 years old...After the final game at Auburn, Jill Semento said that was the first time she played at shortstop since sometime in high school.

 

 

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