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March 17, 2006

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina softball will host the Kentucky Wildcats in its conference home opener March 18-19 at Beckham Field. A doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday and game three of the series is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Gamecocks (18-8, 0-3 SEC) and the Wildcats (12-12, 0-6 SEC) are both searching for the first conference win of the season. Fans that bring pet toys, treats or other supplies to donate to Pets, Inc. can get in for $1 admission.

USC is coming off of a 0-3 start in SEC play after being swept by No. 6/7 Alabama last weekend. The Gamecocks snapped the losing streak earlier in the week when they hosted Eastern Kentucky and won 6-1. This marks the third consecutive SEC road series for the Wildcats after traveling to No. 18/19 Auburn and No. 13/12 Georgia in the last week.

In the preseason SEC Coaches Poll, South Carolina was predicted to finish fourth, ahead of Kentucky, in the Eastern Division. USC leads the series against the Wildcats 25-6 and have won the last three meetings.

Eileen Schmidt, a former assistant under South Carolina head coach Joyce Compton, is in her second year at the helm of the Wildcats. Schmidt coached at USC in 1995 and helped lead the Gamecocks to a 53-21 record that year.

The Gamecocks will look to junior McKenna Hughes and freshmen Ashton Payne and Christie Hamilton to lead the way. Hughes is the team’s leading hitter with a .321 average. She has 25 hits, including seven doubles and four home runs and has 13 RBI. Payne leads the team in runs scored with 20 and also has 25 hits. Hamilton has been a thoroughbred both at the plate and in the circle for the Garnet and Black. She has a 10-5 record and is hitting .257 with 13 RBI, and was the only Gamecock to record multiple hits against Alabama.