Carolina softball prepares for run in NCAA Tournament
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No. 24/24 South Carolina (32-23. 8-15 SEC) plays in its 20th NCAA Regional this weekend, opening up action in the Tucson Regional against Northeast Conference champ St. Francis.
First pitch for Friday’s opener is set for 7 p.m. EDT/4 p.m. in Tucson, with ESPN3.com providing video coverage.
The winner takes on the winner of No. 2 national seed Arizona and New Mexico State on Saturday at 5 p.m. EDT at Hillenbrand Stadium, while the losers meet in an elimination game at 7:30 p.m.
Gamecocks Have a Rich NCAA Tournament History
South Carolina earned its 20th bid in the NCAA Tournament this season, the fifth straight under head coach Beverly Smith.
The Gamecocks are 37-41 in those trips, making three NCAA Women’s College World Series in their history (1983, 1989 and 1997).
The program has five AIAW World Series trips in its history as well prior to 1982.
This will be South Carolina’s fourth trip to Tucson for regional play, joining the 1988, 2000, 2003 and 2004 regional bids.
A Look Back at Previous Trips to Tucson
South Carolina plays in its fourth NCAA Regional at Arizona this weekend.
In 1988, the Gamecocks beat both Minnesota and Arizona to advance to the weekend’s finals, but Arizona won twice on May 21 to gain the Women’s College World Series bid.
South Carolina finished third in the 2000 Regional, topping UMass and Illinois State while falling twice to 18th-ranked Nebraska.
Three years later, the Gamecocks went back to Hillenbrand Stadium and won three games but fell twice to No. 22 Texas A&M, once again ranking third in the regional.
In 2004, South Carolina did not fare as well, losing to No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette in the opening round. The Gamecocks rebounded to eliminate Centenary, but Northwestern ended that season in eight innings, 5-3.
Gamecocks Receive SEC Awards, First Rankings on May 9
Gamecocks Mackenzie Boesel (SEC All-Freshman Team) and Kaylea Snaer (SEC All-Defensive Team at 1B) both garnered SEC awards from the coaches’ vote.
Boesel’s the fourth Gamecock under Beverly Smith to make the All-Freshman Team, while Snaer’s the third South Carolina player to make the All-Defensive team in the last 10 years.
Later, the NFCA Coaches’ Top-25 poll came out, and the Gamecocks came in at No. 24 after receiving votes in 12 of the first 13 releases of the poll.
The Gamecocks also came in at No. 23 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.
It’s the first time South Carolina has been ranked since the postseason polls of 2007 by both the NFCA and USA Softball.
The Gamecocks also came in at No. 23 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll.
The Gamecocks held at No. 24 in both polls entering the NCAA Tournament.
Senior Victoria Williams won a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team for the second time in three years, while senior Macey Webb claimed her third-straight SEC Softball Community Service Team nod.
Pitchers Have Responded in Last 19 Games
The Gamecock pitching staff has posted a 2.32 ERA in its last 19 games, helping the team to two top-10 wins, four more wins to take series against ranked teams and a 10-9 mark over that period.
That includes a marked improvement in the team’s strikeout-to-walk ratio, posting 75 K’s while walking 46 in that stretch (126.2 innings).
In the 36 games before this, ending with the Texas A&M series, the Gamecock pitchers had posted a 3.33 ERA with 166 strikeouts to 139 walks in 229.1 innings of work.
This year, the Gamecocks have played 29 games against the top-100 scoring teams in NCAA Division I, going 13-16 in those contests.
The Tucson Regional holds the third (Arizona), 13th (St. Francis) and 14th (New Mexico State) ranked scoring teams in NCAA Division I.
Offense Facing Off Against Some of the Best Pitching in the Country
South Carolina’s offense has squared off against the top 75 teams in ERA according to the NCAA Division I stat rankings on 35 occasions already (as of May 14), going 15-20 in those meetings.
In the Tucson Regional, the Gamecocks play No. 21 St. Francis and may meet No. 6 Arizona in the ERA rankings.
The Gamecocks have had success against other top pitching teams, including scoring seven runs against USC Upstate, which stands fifth in ERA, and 14 at Alabama, the most a visitor has scored in a single game against the Crimson Tide, who is 10th in the rankings.
South Carolina has tallied the most runs allowed by these five teams this season: Ohio (10), Presbyterian (14), Indiana (13), Tennessee (9) and Alabama (14).
In 23 games against the top-25 ERA teams, SC is 8-15, but they are 7-5 against teams 26-75.
Snaer Back to Threaten More Records
Senior first baseman Kaylea Snaer enters the NCAA Tournament as South Carolina’s career record-holder in walks while ranking in the top 15 in 14 categories total.
Snaer started the year ranking first in SC history in doubles per game and walks per game and second in RBI per game.
She’s not just a standout at the plate, as the SEC coaches selected her for the first-base spot on the SEC All-Defensive Team after she ranked fourth in SEC play in putout and second in double plays.
Snaer’s already tied for fourth on the single-season walks list with 32 this year, passing her previous bests of 31 in 2014 and 2015.
Moved to the leadoff spot at No. 14/13 Tennessee, Snaer went 6-for-11 with three doubles and a grand slam in the series, helping the Gamecocks win the SEC opener for the first time since 2008.
She had her career-best 24-game reached-base streak, the best for SC since Alaynie Page’s 21-game stretch in 2015, end against No. 2/1 Florida (3/18).
This year, she’s posted a walk-off blast in the eighth to down College of Charleston on Feb. 25 to add to her legacy of big hits.
Snaer ended 2016 with 27 doubles, leading the nation and tying for fourth in a single season in NCAA Division I history with five others.
She earned a spot on the 2016 CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team, the 17th Gamecock to garner selection.
Blue Starting to Climb Gamecock Pitching Charts
Senior Nickie Blue owns South Carolina’s saves record and stands in the top five in NCAA Division I history in career saves with 21.
Blue’s also moved up South Carolina’s lists in innings pitched, appearances, wins, shutouts and strikeouts in 2017.
The staff ace posted her best start of the year at No. 9/9 Alabama, holding the Tide to two hits without issuing a walk in the shutout win, which garnered her SEC Pitcher of the Week honors for the second time in her career.
She’s producing ground outs at a 62-percent rate this season (195-119), matching her career rate entering the season (777-472 in 2014-16).
Blue became the fourth Gamecock pitcher in history with back-to-back 200-inning years, joining Angie Lear (1990-91), Darlene Gareis (3 years, 1992-94) and Megan Matthews (4 years, 1999-2002) on that list.
In 2015, Blue posted over 200 innings in the circle and an ERA under 2.00, one of two in the SEC to post such numbers (Lauren Haeger of Florida the other).
Blue, Snaer Among NCAA Division I Active Leaders
Gamecock seniors Nickie Blue and Kaylea Snaer both rank among NCAA Division I’s active leaders in some statistical categories.
Blue leads the country with 21 career saves, while she’s fourth in appearances (174).
Snaer is tied for fifth in career doubles with 57.
The duo both hold NCAA season statistical plaques: Snaer for doubles in 2016 and Blue for saves in 2014.
Comebacks Becoming Regular Occurrence for Gamecocks
South Carolina has come from behind to capture a win 13 times this season.
Five other times, the Gamecocks have picked up a walk-off win, twice in extra innings.
Last season, the Gamecocks won seven games entering the seventh either tied or down, and this year’s team has five, two shy of that mark.
Gamecocks Post Victory vs. No. 1/2 Florida State
The biggest SC Softball victory in 15 years occurred on Fri., April 14, when the Gamecocks downed No. 1/2 Florida State 7-2.
It’s the fourth time in history South Carolina has beaten the top team in the country and the first time since 2002 NCAA Regionals in Columbia, when SC forced the “if” game against No. 1 UCLA with a 2-1 win (May 19, 2002).
The Gamecocks tallied seven runs against the nation’s eighth-best pitching staff in ERA, the most allowed by FSU this year at that time, and SC raised Jessica Burrough’s ERA by 0.20 runs (0.57 to 0.77).
Junior Alyssa VanDerveer went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, while fellow junior Tiara Duffy knocked in the game-winning run with her three-run blast that put SC on top for good.
White Leads the Run Production
Krystan White leads the Gamecocks’ offense in RBI (38) and ranks third in batting average (.303) and doubles (9).
In her 4-for-4 opening day, three of her four hits went for extra bases: the homer joined with a double against Ohio and another double against Presbyterian.
She also showed her versatility, starting at both second and third while making stellar plays at both.
She added a team-best five RBI during the Texas Invitational, starting all four games.
White moved back to shortstop exclusively starting with the game at North Carolina after an injury to sophomore Kenzi Maguire suffered in Texas forced her out of the lineup.
She’s 7-for-9 with the bases loaded, and her grand slam led the Gamecocks to a 7-5 win over in-state rival USC Upstate (3/15).
This season, she’s hitting a team-best .426 with runners in scoring position and has 18 RBI with two outs, tied with freshman Mackenzie Boesel for most of the team.
Two Freshmen Making Impact in 2017
Freshmen Mackenzie Boesel has produced with a team-best .337 batting average and .439 on-base percentage to go with her seven home runs and 31 RBI, both of which rank second.
Those numbers helped Boesel garner a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team, the fourth Gamecock to make it under head coach Beverly Smith.
The March 6 SEC Freshman of the Week, Boesel posted a .550 batting average, two home runs and eight RBI in the prior seven games, including a three-run blast against No. 20/20 Arizona State.
She also drove in both Gamecock runs in the contest against No. 7/8 UCLA with her double.
Boesel’s seven homers are tied for second for a Gamecock freshman, one shy of Kaylea Snaer’s record.
A three-time South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, freshman Cayla Drotar, in her first career start against Presbyterian, twirled a one-hitter.
That beginning harkens back to another in-state pitcher’s debut back in 2011, when Julie Sarratt no-hit Coastal Carolina in her first go in the circle on Feb. 12, 2011.
Drotar also tossed the first five innings and doubled twice, getting the victory over No. 1/2 Florida State on April 14, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors on April 18.
Gamecock Pitching Posting Solid Results
In February, South Carolina’s pitching tallied eight shutouts, tying 2014 for the most in the 2000s during the first month of the season.
Senior Jessica Elliott tossed the first solo no-hitter in seven years with her five-inning blanking of Winthrop in the first game of Feb. 28’s doubleheader.
The Gamecocks have three one-hitters and five two-hitters in the books this season.
Seniors Nickie Blue and Elliott both have seven complete games, while Elliott has one more shutout (5-4) than Blue after Elliott’s five-inning two-hitter vs. Charleston Southern.
Freshman Cayla Drotar has two complete-game shutouts as well, which includes a one-hitter in her debut against Presbyterian.
South Carolina Softball Historical Record
South Carolina has played 2,240 games in its softball history, going 1448-785-7 (.648) in its 41st season of sponsorship.
Scouting St. Francis
St. Francis makes its first NCAA Tournament appearance after going 48-9 and winning the Northeast Conference with a sterling 16-0 record plus three more wins in the conference tournament.
With a 51 RPI, the Red Flash has two wins over top-50 RPI teams (Tulsa and Fordham).
SFU ranks in the top 20 in scoring, slugging, home runs and stolen bases while standing 21st in ERA.
Two SFU players have double-digit home runs: Jordan Seneca (21) and Hayley Norton (11).
Seneca, third in NCAA Division I in home runs, has 64 RBI with Norton adding 47 more.
In total, six Red Flash players have more than 30 RBI.
The Red Flash also collects a ton of doubles, led by Sierra McKee’s 18. Madison Cabell has 13 and Cheyenne McKee has 11.
Four players have double-digit steals: Seneca (22), Sierra McKee (18), Cheyenne McKee (14) and Norton (13).
Five Red Flashes have on-base percentages better than .400 and slugging percentages over .500.
In the circle, St. Francis is led by NEC Pitcher of the Year Ethel Santai, who has posted a 1.62 ERA in 134 innings, going 18-1.
NEC Freshman of the Year Abby Trahan (2.12 ERA in 119 IP) and Ketarah DeVries (2.02 ERA in 118 IP) provide quality options for head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift.
All three induce more fly outs than groundouts, but the staff has only allowed 21 home runs.
SC History vs. the Northeast Conference
South Carolina is 8-0 against Northeast Conference teams all-time, going 3-0 against Fairleigh Dickinson and Robert Morris and 2-0 against LIU Brooklyn.
Scouting New Mexico State
The Aggies, the Western Athletic Conference champs, bring a potent offense along with its 29-23 record to Tucson.
New Mexico State ranks 10th in NCAA Division I in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage and 14th in scoring.
Leading the offense is WAC Player of the Year Kelsey Horton, who has a .424 batting average, .515 on-base percentage, 14 doubles, 16 home runs and 59 RBI, all best on the team.
Helping Horton bring runs in is Victoria Castro, who has nine homers and 42 RBI, both second among the Aggies.
Rachel Rodriguez has a team-best 22 stolen bases and 11 doubles while hitting .377.
Fahren Glackin ranks third on the team in doubles (9) and RBI (35), while posting the second-best on-base percentage (.475).
The Aggies do depend on out-hitting the oppostion, as the pitching staff holds a 4.34 ERA.
Samaria Diaz and Kayla Green both have the same number of walks to strikeouts and ERAs over 4.00, and both have allowed nearly a home run per game.
Common Foes of the Gamecocks and Aggies
Both teams fell to Arizona State, with NMSU dropping a doubleheader in Tempe in April.
The Aggies also lost to Tennessee and LSU in neutral-site games, both by 9-0 scores in five innings.
The Gamecocks downed Tennessee once in Knoxville and LSU twice at home in regular-season play.
SC Series History vs. the Aggies
South Carolina has beaten New Mexico State twice in two meetings, both coming in Tempe in 1999 and 2001.
The Last Meeting – New Mexico State vs. No. 18 South Carolina – Feb. 10, 2001
Joyce McMillin hit two home runs, while both Stacey Johnson and Melissa Sandel went deep in an 6-0 win in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament.
Johnson posted her first complete-game shutout, scattering three hits and a walk while fanning four.
The Wildcats, the second overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, hold a 48-7 overall record and an 18-6 mark that stood atop the Pac-12 Conference.
They earned that spot with five offensive marks in the top six in the country, including the nation’s top slugging percentage (.588), while also boasting of the sixth-best ERA.
All nine Wildcat projected starters have on-base percentages better than .400, topped by Mandie Perez’s .488 mark.
Five Wildcats have double-digit home runs, led by Pac-12 Co-Player of the Year Katiyana Mauga’s 22.
Mauga’s second in the nations in homers and leads U of A with 55 RBI.
Jessie Harper (19 HR, 52 RBI) and Alyssa Palomino (16 HR, 54 RBI) rank second and third in both round-trippers and RBI.
Dejah Mulipola (11 home runs, 11 doubles, 46 RBI) and Mo Mercado (team-best .391 batting average, 13 doubles, 10 homers, 49 RBI) make the lineup even deeper.
Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Danielle O’Toole fronts the staff with a 1.08 ERA, striking out 191 against 37 walks in 195.1 innings of work.
Taylor McQuillin also has quality numbers, posting a 1.87 ERA in 105 innings, fanning 143 while walking 33.
Common Foes of the Gamecocks and Wildcats
South Carolina and Arizona played six common opponents.
Both beat North Dakota State in one-run games, while Arizona run-ruled Northwestern, a team that tallied a win over South Carolina.
Arizona fell to Florida State, a team the Gamecocks split two games against.
Both downed Texas, Arizona in three separate games.
Against the two Pac-12 teams the Gamecocks faced and fell to in the Judi Garman Classic, the Wildcats went 2-1 against archrival Arizona State and fell 1-2 against UCLA.
Ties Between South Carolina and Arizona
Wildcat senior Mo Mercado hails from the same SoCal A’s group that produced four Gamecocks: Kaylea Snaer, Hayley Copeland, Kennedy Clark and Mackenzie Boesel.
Two former Gamecocks hail from Tucson, the home of the U of A: Amber Curtis (2001-04) and Molly Brossart (2011-12), who played for current Wildcat associate head coach Stacy Iveson at Yavapai College.
SC Series History vs. the Wildcats
Arizona has won five of the previous eight meetings, including the last three in tournaments at Arizona State from 1999-2001.
In Tucson, the Gamecocks are 1-2 against the Wildcats, with those coming in the 1988 regional.
The Last Meeting – No. 3 Arizona vs. No. 18 South Carolina – Feb. 11, 2001
No. 3 Arizona captured an 8-0 in six in SC’s final game in the Fiesta Bowl Tournament in Tempe, Ariz.
Megan Donohoo had two of the Gamecocks’ three hits, while Megan Matthews took a one-hitter into the fifth before the Wildcats scored five in the frame and three to end it in the sixth.
Jennie Finch hit a home run and fanned 14 in the shutout win for the Wildcats.
More Insight into the Tucson Regional
The four teams average scoring from 4.53 (SC) to 7.53 (U of A) runs per game, with the Gamecocks’ three possible opponents ranking in the top 14 (St. Francis 13th, NMSU 14th).
Three teams have top-100 ERAs: Arizona (6th), St. Francis (21st) and South Carolina (89th).
All four teams are in the top 50 in doubles per game, top 75 for home runs per game and top 100 in fielding percentage.
Arizona has played the third-toughest schedule, South Carolina the fourth. St. Francis and New Mexico State’s strength of schedules both rank in the 200’s.
Gamecock Newcomers, Signees Have Loads of Accolades, Accomplishments
Many Gamecocks have won awards at South Carolina, but the high school accolades continue to raise the prestige of Bev Smith’s recruiting classes.
This year’s freshman class has two high school All-Americans on it: Mackenzie Boesel and Cayla Drotar.
The team also added its third NJCAA All-American under Bev Smith, signing Shannon Plese out of Chattanooga State.
Plese follows in the footsteps of former Tigers Melissa Hendon and Kaela Jackson (herself a former NJCAA All-American) and joins 2015 NJCAA Pitcher of the Year Jessica Elliott on the roster.
Drotar also claimed the South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year award the past three seasons, and next year, two-time New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year Kelsey Oh will join them.
All the awards for the Gamecocks and the national notations for the 2018 signing class are on page four of the notes.
Meanwhile, Gamecock signee Alex Fulmer has racked up notoriety on the baseball diamond, playing for the last two years with the USA Baseball Women’s National Team.
She played on teams that won the 2015 Pan American Games gold medal as well as the consolation bracket of the 2016 World Baseball Softball Confederation World Cup.
Fulmer and Oh were joined by Jana Johns, Victoria Galvan and Alyssa Kumiyama in the 2018 signing class.
Some Win-Loss Breakdowns
In wins, South Carolina has 142 free base runners via walks (110) and HBPs (32) against 58 in losses.
The Gamecocks have only had 26 chances with runners on third and less than two outs in the 23 losses.
Those numbers equate to 44 runs in 23 losses compared to 205 in 32 wins.
The Gamecocks have 24 “productive outs” (11 SF, 13 SH) in wins and only five in setbacks.
In losses, South Carolina runs less (34 SB in W’s, 14 in L’s) and commit more errors (31 in 23 losses, 24 in 32 wins).
When Gamecock pitching keeps leadoff runners from reaching at least half the time, SC is 25-15.
In wins, the pitchers hold better strikeout-to-walk ratios (150:88 in wins, 91:97 in losses).
Nineteen of the 22 home runs allowed came in Gamecock losses, while 18 of the 26 wild pitches have come in those same defeats.
The Schedule Could Hardly Have Been Tougher
The 2017 schedule is the toughest compiled to date by head coach Beverly Smith.
The Gamecocks were scheduled to play 33 of their 56 regular-season games against teams who made the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina played at least one 2016 NCAA Tournament team each weekend except for one: the SEC trip to Mississippi State, who ended last year with a 39 RPI and was ineligible for postseason play (26-31 record).
The docket included 15 games against Women’s College World Series teams and another three against last year’s top seed in the NCAA Tournament (and defending SEC champs), Florida, who lost in super regional play to Georgia.
A total of 42 of the Gamecocks’ scheduled games came against teams that finished in the top 100 of the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index last year. Of those, 39 were against the top-76 teams and 33 are versus the top 50.
The Gamecocks play four defending regular-season conference champs: Florida (SEC), Florida State (ACC), Longwood (Big South) and North Dakota State (Summit) as well as the Atlantic Sun (USC Upstate) and SEC (Auburn) Tournament champs from 2016.
Of the preseason top 25 in both major polls, the Gamecocks are slated to take on nine of them, including four of the top five and eight of the top 10 (seven in the NFCA poll).
Seven of those nine are in SEC play, accounting for 21 games.
South Carolina, who had 13 points in the NFCA/USA Today Preseason poll, also has five games against teams receiving votes in between the two polls.
The Schedule, Looking Back, Lived Up to its Billing
South Carolina played an NCAA Tournament team every weekend this year, tallying a 15-21 mark against 18 members of the field.
The Gamecocks faced five teams who won automatic bids (Longwood, Louisiana Tech, North Dakota State, USC Upstate & Florida State), with three more making up the Tucson Regional field.
The other three members of the Tucson Regional were regular-season conference champs. South Carolina faced five regular-season champs: Ohio (MAC Eastern Division), USC Upstate (Atlantic Sun), Florida (SEC), Furman (Southern) and Florida State (ACC).
In 55 games, South Carolina faced top-50 RPI teams on 31 occasions and took on 39 matchups against RPI top-100 teams. Only once did the Gamecocks lose to a non-top 100 team (at Coastal).
Gamecocks Off the Diamond
The Gamecocks post their third-highest team GPA in the past 10 years last spring (3.456).
Fourteen Gamecocks garnered NFCA Scholar-Athlete honors in 2015-16, the most under Beverly Smith.
Kaylea Snaer became the 17th Gamecock selected to CoSIDA’s Academic All-District team in 2016, a year after Victoria Williams made the squad.
Off the 2016 roster of 20 students, 17 Gamecocks earned SEC Academic Honor Roll nods.
The softball team has won the department’s Community Outreach Team of the Year twice under Bev Smith in 2011 and 2013.
Former Gamecocks have played a big part in helping out the Louisville Slugger Warriors team made up of former military veterans.
Gamecocks Find Some Success in the Challenge in SEC Road Play
South Carolina won a game in each of its four SEC trips this season, the first time since 2001 to accomplish that feat (at Arkansas, Georgia, Auburn & Kentucky in `01).
The Gamecocks won single games at No. 14 Tennessee, No. 9 Alabama and Mississippi State before taking the series at No. 22 Georgia.
The five road wins is the most for a Beverly Smith team since 2013, when the Gamecocks took six road SEC games (1 at No. 13 LSU, 2 at Auburn, 3 at Mississippi State).
It’s the first time SC has won games at three different ranked SEC foes, topping the two wins in 2004 (at No. 4 LSU, 3/13; at No. 13 Alabama 4/17).
The win in Knoxville ended a 16-game, 15-year losing streak, with the last wins coming in a series sweep on April 2-3, 2002.
That victory also stands as SC’s first in an SEC opener since 2008.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks recorded the most runs by a foe at Alabama in history in the 14-0 win.
It was the first win in Tuscaloosa since that 2004 contest mentioned earlier, ending an 18-game skid at Rhoads Stadium.
The Gamecocks got a shutout from Nickie Blue to down Mississippi State in the series opener.
South Carolina took the series at No. 22/25 Georgia two games to one, the first road series win against a ranked SEC team since taking two at No. 14 Kentucky in 2015.
It’s the Gamecocks’ first series win in Athens since sweeping a 2001 doubleheader from Georgia.
The Gamecocks have now one at least one SEC road series in each of the last five seasons.
Leading the Gamecocks’ 14 returners is the senior pitching duo Nickie Blue and Jessica Elliott.
The duo combined for all 61 starts, 390.1 innings, 246 strikeouts, 37 wins and all eight saves.
Six position player starters return for the Gamecocks from last year’s squad.
South Carolina lost five students who combined to start 215 games, including a majority of starts at catcher, second base, left and center field.
The highest percentage lost in any offensive category is stolen bases at 75 percent, followed by triples at 66.7 and sacrifice hits at 50.
The Gamecocks return around 60 percent of its offense in most other categories, including 74.4 percent of their doubles to 71.7 percent of their home runs.
The top hitter from last year is back, senior Kaylea Snaer, as she led NCAA Division I in doubles and SC in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, RBI and sacrifice flies.
Six newcomers could play in 2017, three signees and three transfers.
Leading that contingent is former first-team All-Big Ten catcher Alyssa VanDerveer (Penn State), while high school All-Americans Mackenzie Boesel and Cayla Drotar both could be major contributors.
Also joining the team are a pair of award-winning outfielders: two-time 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Week Lauren Stewart (Purdue) and two-time NJCAA All-American Shannon Plese (Chattanooga State).
The sixth newcomer, freshman Alexis Lindsey, will likely miss the year to rehabilitate an injury.
The Gamecocks hail from 12 states this year, with the newcomers coming from California, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Nickie Blue and Hayley Copeland are the first Gamecock duo who are both over six-feet tall.
While both are Williams’ and seniors by class, Taylor and Victoria are not sisters.
Cali Connection Shows Out in Homestead
Six of South Carolina’s players hail from California, including four everyday starters, and that quartet put on a show playing in front of family and friends in the Judi Garman Classic.
Freshman Mackenzie Boesel earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors after ranking fifth in the tourney in batting average (.571), posting eight hits, six RBI and four walks.
Senior Kaylea Snaer doubled twice and hit .400 on the trip, moving within a two-bagger of advancing on both the Gamecocks’ career doubles and total-base charts.
Sophomore Kennedy Clark doubled twice in the Indiana win and hit .375 on the weekend.
Junior Kamryn Watts stole a pair of bases while batting .316 in the five games.
Boesel, Snaer and Watts all reached base in all five outings, while Clark did so in the first three.
It was the Gamecocks’ third straight season to play in the Golden State (2015 Mary Nutter Classic, 2016 UCSB Gaucho Classic).
Augustus Plays Big Role in SC Sweeping Through Gamecock Invitational
Junior Jordyn Augustus did a little of everything in her four starts during the Gamecock Invitational, helping South Carolina win all four of its games in the event.
With an illness sidelining everyday starter Kamryn Watts on Friday and Saturday, Augustus put on an infielder’s glove and started three games at third base, making two errors in 12 chances.
To close out the weekend-opening win, she fielded three straight balls flawlessly in the seventh.
She brought in the game-winning run in the first outing against North Dakota State with a sacrifice fly before scoring the game-winner in the second outing against the Bison.
In that second game, she put down a bunt single, stole second and scored on Kennedy Clark’s RBI single.
She capped the weekend with a 2-for-2 day, stealing two bases, scoring twice, driving in two runs while reaching base in all four plate appearances, also reaching via walk and hit-by-pitch.
Overall, she batted .429 with a .500 on-base percentage and four stolen bases in the tournament.
Gamecocks Post Stellar Opening Weekend in Carolina Classic
South Carolina showed excellence in every aspect of the 2017 Carolina Classic, going 5-0 in the event.
The five wins pushed head coach Beverly Smith to 200 career victories, a new milestone for the seventh-year boss of the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks won three of the five games in shortened contests, the most ever in an opening week of competition. and matching last year’s Carolina Classic output.
The defense looked outstanding, with several stellar plays coming from the infield, that sports former shortstops in three spots (Maguire, Watts and White as freshman at SC, Boesel in high school).
The team did not commit an error on the weekend, a five-game stretch. Only Toledo was able to match that in NCAA Division I through an opening five-game weekend this season.
Last season, the Gamecocks had one six-game stretch without an error (Feb. 20-26).
That helped the pitchers post a 0.23 ERA, which ranks sixth in NCAA Division I.
The group posted two one-hitters and a shutout streak of 27.2 innings, the longest since a 29-inning stretch in 2014 (Feb. 16-23).
Four straight shutouts began the year, the first time that has been accomplished by a Gamecock team. The 1983, 1984 and 1986 teams all tallied three.
South Carolina Staff Has Top Credentials
Gamecock head coach Beverly Smith has been a part of 12 NCAA Tournament teams as a coach (eight at UNC, four at South Carolina).
Associate head coach Lisa Navas has been to six NCAA Tournaments as an assistant coach (four at SC, one each at UNC and Missouri) and eight as a head coach (six Division II at Barry, two at NC State). Her 1998 Barry squad played in the national championship game.
Navas has been selected to be a part of the 2017-19 USA Softball Women’s National Team coaching pool alongside 21 other coaches.
Assistant coach Calvin Beamon has three titles to his credit as a player, the biggest a College World Series title at Texas during 2005.
He also won the NJCAA Division I title in 2003 at the College of Southern Nevada and a high school state championship at Smoky Hill High School in Cherry Creek, Colo.
Volunteer assistant Matt Stewart worked the past three years at Florida, serving as a manager for both of the Gators’ national title wins.
Gamecocks Love Home Cooking at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field
South Carolina holds a 22-9 home record, and the team’s numbers reflect the better play at home.
The team has a .974 fielding percentage on the finely-maintained surface of Beckham Field (thanks to Marcus Thurber and crew), compared to .954 mark in the 23 games away from home.
The pitcher’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is markedly better (157:107 at home, 82:77 away/neutral) as well as the opponent batting average (.205 to .280). Eleven of the 14 shutouts have come at home.
Senior Jessica Elliott (1.83 ERA at home, 4.05 ERA away) has been better at Carolina Softball Stadium and has shown better control (69:37 K:BB ratio at home, 33:50 away).
SC natives Krystan White (.338/.409/.513 at home, .267/.360/.307 away) and Victoria Williams (.346/.418/.577 at home, .243/.291/.378 away) enjoy the home feel the most.
Junior Tiara Duffy has been SC’s best hitter at home (.375/.444/.531 vs. .269/.319/.433 away).