May 17, 2007
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina softball team returns to action this weekend when they host an NCAA Regional with N.C. State, Oregon and Penn State. The Gamecocks will take on the Wolfpack Friday, May 18 at 7 p.m. N.C. State (41-19) is the No. 15 national seed and the No. 1 seed in the regional while South Carolina (34-23) is the No. 4 seed. All of the action can be followed at the Columbia NCAA Regional Tournament Central page at www.uscsports.com.
"We are definitely excited to be playing at home," said head coach Joyce Compton. "It's always fun to be at home for a regional, stay in your own bed and get extra practice days. I know it's exciting for our players."
This marks the 15th NCAA Regional appearance for the Gamecocks, and the first since 2004. South Carolina is one of seven teams from the Southeastern Conference that was awarded a bid, and one of four teams to host. This will be the seventh regional hosted in Columbia, with the last being 2002. South Carolina's all-time NCAA Tournament record is 25-24. Overall, South Carolina is 1-0 against N.C. State, 0-2 against Oregon and 7-1 against Penn State.
Senior McKenna Hughes is the only current player on the Gamecocks' squad to have participated in an NCAA Regional. Hughes was a freshman on the 2004 team, the last time South Carolina advanced to the post season. Hughes leads the Garnet and Black with a .318 average, 55 hits, 10 home runs and 37 RBI. Another Gamecock player to watch is sophomore utility Ashton Payne. Payne leads the team in stolen bases with 13 and is second on the team in hitting with a .301 average. She also leads the team in runs scored with 22.
"Playing at home has an impact," said Hughes. "It will help a lot being here. Gamecock fans are the greatest and being with home fans will have a great impact on how we play."
The Gamecocks will depend on pitchers Melissa Hendon and Kate Pouliot in the circle as both have had career best seasons. Pouliot has a career best, 15 wins and leads the team in ERA with 1.49. Hendon leads the team in victories with 17 and in strikeouts with 238. She has the most strikeouts in a single season by a Gamecock pitcher since 2001.
In its four-year history, this marks N.C. State's second appearance in the tournament, and the Wolfpack has a 1-2 all-time record. N.C. State has posted a 12-9 record against ranked teams, including a win over current No. 1 Oklahoma and two wins over SEC opponent Florida. Despite going 0-2 at the ACC Tournament last week, N.C. State finished second in the conference.
Providing most of the wins for N.C. State is senior Abbie Sims, who has four no-hitters this season, seven for her career. Sims has a 1.69 ERA in 36 appearances, 10 shutouts, 27 complete games and 274 strikeouts. At the plate, Heather Gelbard leads in hitting with a .339 average and 65 hits, while Jen Chamberlain is hitting .311 with 55 hits, 13 home runs and 43 RBI.
The double-elimination tournament will begin Friday, May 18 with two games at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday's bracket is set for three games at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. Sunday's championship game will be at 1 p.m., with an "if necessary" game scheduled for 4 p.m. All times are eastern.
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