Both Friday and Saturday night set for 7 p.m.; Senior day festivities begin at 12:45 pm on Sunday.
April 26, 2012
SC Softball Notes for April 26
2012 SC Softball Stats (as of 4/22)
Auburn Softball Notes April 26
COLUMBIA, S.C. -
Closing out the 2012 home schedule with a bang, South Carolina (23-26, 3-19 SEC) hosts Auburn (28-19, 7-15 SEC) for a three-game series at Beckham Field. Friday's contest begins at 7 p.m. EDT, with Saturday's start time also set for 7 p.m. A special ceremony before Saturday's game will acknowledge the past of Gamecock Softball and feature a first pitch from longtime program supporter Mitzi Beckham. Sunday's Senior Day festivities are set to begin at 12:45 p.m., with first pitch following at their conclusion.
GamecocksOnline.com will have a live audio stream and Gametracker live stats, while updates will also be posted on the team's Twitter feed, @GamecockSoftbll.
Venerable Beckham Field Set for Farewell
Debuting in its current layout in 1997, Beckham Field has hosted every Gamecock home SEC game in history. Renamed in 1998 in honor of longtime supporters David and Mitzi Beckham, the Gamecocks are 235-141 (.625) since the name change and 262-142 (.649) since the dugouts and current grandstand were constructed prior to the 1997 season for what was previously known as Lady Gamecock Field.
The Gamecocks are playing their 30th season at the site off South Marion Street, nestled in between Weems Baskin Track and the former Sarge Frye Field site that now holds the Carolina Tennis Center, going 515-195-2 (.725) all-time. The site will host Gamecock Softball for the foreseeable future, as the new stadium will be constructed around the field that received new drainage and turf prior to this season.
Postseason Possibilities for South Carolina
The Gamecocks enter the final series with only two paths to postseason eligibility and a spot in the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Four in back of this weekend's foe Auburn, the Gamecocks will likely need five wins in six games over the Tigers and Ole Miss to move into the last tourney slot. The "easiest" way is to sweep Auburn and win one more in Mississippi than Auburn does at home against Mississippi State on the final weekend. If South Carolina takes two out of three from Auburn, the Gamecocks would need a sweep of the Rebels and have the Bulldogs sweep Auburn to get into postseason play.
Arkansas, who hosts Alabama, and Ole Miss, who plays at Tennessee, are also alive for the final spot in Tuscaloosa. The Razorbacks are two games behind Auburn and would drop any tiebreaker to both Auburn and South Carolina. The Rebels are three behind Auburn with six games to play and lose the tiebreaker to Auburn but hold the edge over Arkansas if they are tied.
Gamecocks Bring In Most Fans in a Decade vs. Tennessee
South Carolina fans posted one of the best attendances in history at Beckham Field on Sat., April 21. A total of 928 fans packed into the 700-seat facility, spilling onto the fence down the left-field line and also finding room to sit and watch from the berm behind that fence to watch the Gamecocks and Lady Volunteers play a very exciting contest, one that Tennessee claimed 4-2. It's the most fans since 1,038 came out to the 2003 season opener on Feb. 2 against North Carolina, a doubleheader the Gamecocks swept.
Helping fill the stands were participants in Active Gamecocks, a program started this academic year to promote physical education and fitness in the state. The spring portion of the program ran from March 20-April 3, with over 3,000 students participating in 44 schools. The students and teachers involved with the effort were invited to spring Gamecock events.
New Team Home Run Record at South Carolina
The 2012 South Carolina Gamecocks set a new program record in home runs on April 15 at Alabama, when sophomore Chelsea Hawkins blasted the 39th round-tripper of the year. Now at 40 for the team, that eclipses the 2003 team's 38 dingers in 61 games. Eleven different Gamecocks have hit the homers, including three that stand in the top 10 in the individual single-season stats: senior Evan Childs (11, T-1st), junior Samie Garcia (7, T-10th) and Hawkins (7, T-10th).
Other Team Single-Season Marks in Jeopardy
Two other team season records are in danger of falling as well. The Gamecocks also could post the highest on-base percentage and slugging percentage as a team in history. The group is currently .009 above the 1996 team's .367 on-base mark, while it's .043 higher than the 1994 team's slugging record. Six games remain for South Carolina, including three against a solid Auburn pitching staff that stands sixth in the SEC with a 2.02 team ERA.
Gamecocks With A First in 16th SEC Season
For the first time since the inception of Southeastern Conference softball in 1997, South Carolina did not post a defensive error in a three-game series. The format of most league series since 2001, the April 20-22 weekend against Tennessee marked the first time the Gamecocks played errorless softball in a weekend set. The previous two times the Gamecocks did that in a single-day doubleheader-only series in SEC play were also against Tennessee, in 2007 and a rain-shortened series in 2009. Remarkably, in all seven of those games, South Carolina came out on the wrong side.
The Long Ball Proving to Be Bellweather Again for Gamecocks
The 2012 Gamecocks have tallied 40 homers on the year, the highest total in program history. And yet again, the homers point to good things for the team. South Carolina is 17-9 when sending at least one ball out, while it is 3-17 when going without a triple or homer. Last season, the Gamecocks went 17-6 in games in which they hit a homer while winning just three games when the team did not record at least one triple or one home run.
Starting Things Right Very Important for Gamecocks
The Gamecocks thrive when they reach base to start an inning. As a team, South Carolina gets on base at a .406 clip to begin a frame, and the team is 16-8 in games when the leadoff runner of an inning reaches three times or more in the game. When the Gamecocks start two or fewer innings with a base runner reaching, they are 7-18. Three of those seven wins came in games shortened by the mercy rule (Providence, Maine and Kentucky).
Childs Prefers to Trot . . .
Senior third baseman Evan Childs has tallied 11 homers on the year, tied for the most by a South Carolina player in a single season. With 17 in her career, she's tied for sixth on South Carolina's all-time list with three-time Academic All-American Ashley Smith. She's vying to be the first Gamecock since McKenna Hughes (2004-07) to lead the team in homers twice in her career. She also is vying for a spot on the top-10 single-season RBI charts, two away from tying for 10th there.
Two of Childs' homers came in the Gamecocks' series-clinching 8-7 victory over Arkansas on March 11, the second two-homer game of her career, tying the program's single-game record again. She also hit the second homer off Florida Gator pitching this season on March 18.
While Lackey Likes Stretching It to Three . . .
Senior outfielder Lauren Lackey has five triples on the year, tied for the SEC lead. Lackey is looking to be the first Gamecock since Ashton Payne in 2007-08 to lead the team in triples in consecutive seasons. She's tied for seventh on the Gamecocks' career triples chart with 10 with former standouts Joyce McMillin and two-time All-American Karen Sanchelli.
Lackey ranks second in the SEC with her .413 batting average and 59 hits, tied with teammate Samie Garcia in the latter, and she's also tied for third in the league with seven sacrifice bunts, leading the team in all. Keeping her batting average in the same range would place Lackey on South Carolina's single-season top-10 list. Lackey also leads the Gamecocks in on-base percentage (.447) and stolen bases (10, tied with Garcia).
Westfall A Double Machine in 2012
Senior leftfielder Kaitlin Westfall leads the SEC with 17 doubles this season, tying for third on South Carolina's single-season top-10 list and four more than her closest competition in the league. She also is vying for a listing in the single-season HBP records, as she is currently tied with Samie Garcia and Dana Hathorn for sixth with six this year. Five of Westfall's doubles came in the Blue & Gold Feisberg Memorial, as she posted two each in wins over Illinois-Chicago and Villanova.
Westfall has also contributed four round-trippers on the year, and they both came in pairs on a single day. On March 2, she hit one against both Portland State and Maine in the Highlander Classic at UC Riverside. On March 31, she had one in each end of the doubleheader versus Longwood, including a grand slam in game two that gave the Gamecocks a lead they never relinquished.
Garcia Still Strong Atop Lineup
Shortstop Samie Garcia ranks second on the team and fourth in the SEC with a .381 batting average, and she's tied for second in the league with her teammate Lauren Lackey with 59 hits. She's fourth in the SEC in total bases, sixth in runs and tied for 10th in triples. While Garcia is threatening to make the Gamecocks' single-season charts in many categories (found on pages 9-10 of the PDF version of the notes), including her seven homers, which tie her for 10th in a single season, she also ranks in the top 20 in many of South Carolina's all-time hitting categories, which can be found on page 8 in the PDF notes.
The Easter Sunday contest at Kentucky (4/8) was outstanding for the Bell, Calif., native, as she hit two homers and scored three times. The junior saw her 21-game hitting streak snapped in the first game versus Arkansas (3/9), the second-longest documented skein in Gamecock history. In front of family and a large crowd at the Highlander Classic, Garcia went 3-for-4 with the game-tying RBI double in the 3-2 comeback win over UC Davis. And during the Blue & Gold Feisberg Memorial, she led the team with nine RBI in the event. Her grand slam versus Providence helped propel South Carolina to the 9-1 (5) win.
Carolina in the Month of April
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 356-217-1 (.621) in the fourth month of the year. In April SEC games, South Carolina is 102-124 (.451).
Hawkins Providing Thump
Sophomore Chelsea Hawkins has provided a lot of power for the Gamecocks this season, currently standing in a tie for 10th on South Carolina's top-10 single-season charts with seven homers while adding 12 doubles. She's driven in 29 runs, tied for second on the team, and also stands third in slugging percentage (.565) and in batting average (.326).
Big RBI Games Already Surpassing Last Year
The Gamecocks have posted seven four-or-more-RBI games already in 2012, four more than what the team did in the whole of 2011. Sophomores Chelsea Hawkins (2/11) and Dana Hathorn (2/22) both drove home four in wins over Winthrop, while junior Samie Garcia had a grand slam in the win over Providence (2/17). Senior Evan Childs has two four-RBI games on the season, the last in the comeback triumph over Arkansas to clinch the series on March 11. Freshman Kristen Struett, in her first career start, hit a homer and drove in four in the win at Winthrop (3/28). And senior Kaitlin Westfall joined the act in game two against Longwood (3/31), launching her first career grand slam and adding another RBI for the first five-RBI day since Jill Semento's day on April 7, 2009 against Coastal Carolina.
Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, Etc.
In last year's 26-30 season, South Carolina went 7-11 in one-run games and 1-3 in extra-inning affairs. Turning half of those one-run losses into wins would move the Gamecocks a long way to their goal of NCAA Tournament eligibility. The Gamecocks stand at 1-1 in extra-inning games this season, getting a 5-4 victory in eight over Western Kentucky, and hold a 5-5 mark in one-run games.
Struett Stellar in First Week of Action
Freshman Kristen Struett bided her time until she made her debut. But she definitely knew how to make an impact once playing. She went 1-for-3 in pinch-hitting duty against LSU while tossing the final 2.1 innings in the Sunday contest. Struett shined against Winthrop and Longwood, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors. She tossed a complete game in Rock Hill and hit her first career homer. She added hits in both ends of the twinbill versus the Lancers and another pitching win in game two.
Hathorn Leads Gamecocks to Walkoff Win vs. Charlotte
Sophomore second baseman Dana Hathorn stepped up with another big hit to lead the Gamecocks over Charlotte on March 14. She poked a single to left to score Kaitlin Westfall from third and give South Carolina its second comeback win in four days.
In the first game at No. 11/11 Georgia on April 11, Hathorn tied the game in the seventh with a two-out, two-RBI single, adding to her big-hit résumé.
Howser a Bullpen Ace in Early Going
Freshman Katelynn Howser has done some of her best work in 2012 out of the bullpen. In 17 relief appearances, seventh most in a year for a Gamecock, she's picked up three saves, which ranks ninth on South Carolina's single-season chart, and three of her eight wins while posting a 2.57 ERA in 46.1 innings. In her 15 starts, she's 5-8, tossing seven complete games and posting a 5.02 ERA in 68.1 innings.
Childs' Game-Ending Blast New Feeling for These Gamecocks
South Carolina senior Evan Childs ended the series finale against Arkansas on March 11 with a two-run home run, helping the team claim its first win of the season when trailing heading into the seventh inning. Childs' walk-off shot is the first for the Gamecocks since McKenna Hughes ended a nine-inning affair against Ole Miss in similar fashion in the second game of the doubleheader on May 5, 2007. It was Hughes' ninth round-tripper in her program-best 11-homer year, a mark Childs is one homer from tying.
Broyles Goes the Distance and More
Redshirt junior Audrey Broyles passed a personal milestone in her first start of 2012, tossing 117 pitches in the complete-game victory over Western Kentucky. That marked the first time since 2010 that Broyles had thrown that many pitches, when she threw 120 in the loss at Florida Atlantic. Broyles felt so strong that she tossed another 1.1 innings against Winthrop immediately following.
The Pembroke Pines, Fla., product leads the Gamecocks with a 3.93 ERA, tossing 87.1 innings this season. She made her first relief appearance of the year on March 11 and held Arkansas scoreless for the final 3.2 innings in the 8-7 comeback win. She pitched a strong seven innings versus Longwood (3/31), fanning seven without giving up a walk in the complete-game win. And when things get tough, she gets better, as the chart in the PDF version of the notes shows.
South Carolina Defense Downfall in Early Losses
A common strand ran through the first three Gamecock losses: defensive errors and unearned runs. South Carolina committed seven errors combined and allowed nine unearned runs. Only the Tennessee State game would have stay tied without those runs; the rest would all favor the Gamecocks. Errors also haunted the Gamecocks in the first game against Mississippi State, as four unearned runs crossed in the 10-6 setback on March 13.
Last season, South Carolina went 21-19 when making one or no errors. That record fell to 5-7 in games with two errors. When the Gamecocks made three or more errors, they went 0-4. This season, the Gamecocks are 18-17 when making one or less errors but 5-9 when committing two or more.
Coaches Know a Bit about Winning
Last season was outside of the norm for the Gamecock coaching staff. Both head coach Beverly Smith and assistant coach Janelle Breneman came down from North Carolina, which was ranked in the top 25 in each of their last five seasons in Chapel Hill, while the Tar Heels made NCAA Tournament appearances eight times during Smith's tenure. Calvin Beamon also knows something about winning, claiming crowns at all three of his amateur stops. A high school state champion at Smoky Hill High School in Cherry Creek, Colo., Beamon won the NJCAA Division I title in 2003 at the College of Southern Nevada and the College World Series at Texas during 2005.
Early Season Schedule Provided Tests
While the first glance at South Carolina's pre-conference schedule may lead one to think that they should have all been easy games, closer examination says otherwise for a few of those games. Three of the contests came against defending conference champions and NCAA Tournament teams in Illinois-Chicago (Horizon), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun) and Portland State (Pacific Coast Softball). The Gamecocks went 2-1 in those games, including shutting out the UIC Flames.
Hits Kept Coming vs. Charlotte
South Carolina posted 18 hits in the victory at Charlotte on Feb. 29. That mark is the best since March 5, 2005, when the Gamecocks had 20 in a 15-2 win over South Dakota State.
Seven Games of HR Equals 2009 Season Total
South Carolina combined to hit 13 homers in the seven-game stretch from Feb. 28-March 4. That total matches what the 2009 team did in 45 games and surpassed the outputs of both 2008 and 2010. In 43 games in 2012, South Carolina has hit 36 homers, two shy of the program record of 38 in 2003.
Gamecocks Not New in Seeing Southpaws in Circle
Unlike last year, the Gamecocks have seen lefty pitchers and had success off of them in 2012. Auburn's top two pitchers Angel Bunner and Jenee Loree both are southpaws who helped hold the Gamecocks to a .228 batting average and go 1-7 in games that featured a left-handed starting pitcher. This season, South Carolina is 4-3 against lefties, hitting .341 as a team against them.
Scouting the Auburn Tigers
Auburn brings a 28-19 record into the weekend set in Columbia, standing at eighth in the SEC standings with a 7-15 mark in league play. While pitching is the hallmark of the Tigers this season, they have been without sophomore Morgan Estell, who suffered an injury against Syracuse. The Tigers were 15-0 with Estell, Auburn's leading hitter and slugger last season, and have gone 13-19 since that time.
A three-person rotation, the Tigers' most successful starter is Angel Bunner. With an 11-4 record overall, Bunner holds a 2.25 ERA with 76 strikeouts and only 19 walks in 112 innings. Jenee Loree ranks second in ERA (1.99) and innings pitched (102), but she has struck out the most batters (109) and has the lowest opponents batting average (.167). Loree has walked a staff-most 35 batters. Lauren Schmalz holds the best ERA of the group at 1.76 and has fanned 101 batters while walking 28 in 99.1 innings of work. The trio has hit 39 batters on the year.
Lauren Guzman leads Auburn at the plate with a .357 batting average and .407 on-base percentage. She's stolen a team-best seven bases in nine tries. Brooke Lathan tops the Tigers in slugging with a .597 clip, posting nine doubles and eight homers on the year. Elizabeth Eisterhold has a team-high 11 home runs and 37 RBI, hitting .303. Caitlin Jordan holds the second-highest on-base percentage at .390 for Auburn and is tied with Lathan for second on the squad with eight homers. Of note, Caitlin Schultze has 10 errors on the season, playing mostly third, with eight coming in SEC play.
Series History Versus the Tigers
Auburn holds a slim 23-21 advantage in the all-time series but has won six straight and eight of the last nine in the series. In Columbia, the Gamecocks have the lead 11-7, with Auburn sweeping the set in 2010.
The Last Series vs. Auburn - March 18-20, 2011
Auburn swept South Carolina at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn last season, including a walkoff 3-2 win in nine innings on Sunday afternoon.
After getting the tying run to second base in the fifth, South Carolina made two errors in the bottom of the inning to continue an Auburn rally and let the No. 23/24 Tigers end the game at 9-1 on Friday night. Morgan Estell went 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. Katie Colton had two runs scored and an RBI in her 2-for-3 night. And Caitlin Stangl scored twice without a hit. Samie Garcia, P.J. Fulmer and Hannah Milks collected the three Gamecock hits, while Garcia reached base twice more via hit-by-pitches.
A good showing by the Gamecock defense and pitcher Ashley Chastain went for naught, as Auburn claimed the series with a 3-0 win in Saturday's contest against South Carolina. The Tigers scored all they needed in the first when Kyndall White lined a single to right to score Lauren Guzman after she reached on a bunt hit. Auburn added two insurance runs in the sixth with two down, getting RBI singles from Kelley Smiley and Caitlin Stangl in the frame.
A strong battle by South Carolina forced extra innings before Auburn came through to take a 3-2 win in nine innings on Sunday afternoon. With one down in the ninth, Auburn third baseman Kyndall White sent the first pitch she saw in the frame over the wall in left to end the contest. Auburn initially took the lead in the sixth on an RBI single by Hilary Mavromat and a sacrifice fly to center by Morgan Estell. South Carolina came back to tie the game in the seventh. A leadoff double to left center by rightfielder Hannah Milks chased Auburn starter Angel Bunner, and second baseman Dana Hathorn connected with a 3-1 pitch for her fourth double of the year, plating Milks. Leftfielder Kaitlin Westfall sacrificed Hathorn to third, putting her 60 feet from scoring with one out. Auburn reliever Jenee Loree got a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but a wild pitch allowed Hathorn to tie the game at 2-2.
Offensive Improvement Continues in 2012
Beverly Smith's first season saw the Gamecocks improve their offensive statistics by huge margins from 2010. The improvement has continued in 2012, with this year's team holding a batting average 31 points better than last year (.298-.267), an on-base percentage 35 points improved (.376-.341) and a slugging percentage 78 points higher (.460-.382).
In 2011, the Garnet and Black tallied a batting average that was 51 points better than 2010 (.267-.216), an on-base percentage 54 points improved (.341-.287) and a slugging percentage 94 points better (.382-.288). From 2010 to 2011, the Gamecocks posted 89 more runs, 130 more hits, 14 more doubles, 10 more triples, 16 more homers, 36 more walks and 66 more stolen bases in `11. They also had 76 less strikeouts in 253 more at bats.
Gamecocks Set Painful Record in 2011, Getting Close in 2012
South Carolina, as a team, took more hit by pitches than in any season previous, getting hit 37 times. The previous mark came in 2009, when the team took 32 pitches off their collective bodies. This season, the Gamecocks have been hit 35 times, the third time a team has recorded over 30 HBP's.
Gamecocks Among Most Experienced Teams in NCAA Division I
South Carolina has 10 seniors listed on the roster for 2012, which is believed to be the most in NCAA Division I this year. Seven position starters return from last year, losing starters at catcher and designated player. When removing two players expected to sit out this year due to injury along with the starts by last year's seniors, the Gamecocks bring back 92.3 percent of their outfield starts and 84.8 percent of infield starts from third to first.