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March 8, 2011

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MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. – The Gamecocks open SEC play on Wednesday with a doubleheader at Mississippi State. First pitch for the twinbill is scheduled for 4 p.m. CST at the MSU Softball Field. South Carolina is looking to continue its strong start after going 13-5 in the early part of the season. The Bulldogs enter with a 8-10 record. Live stats and an audio feed will be available at

Scouting the Bulldogs
Mississippi State enters Wednesday’s doubleheader with a 8-10 record overall, going 6-1 at home this season. The Bulldogs have hit for power, posting a .472 slugging percentage with 31 doubles and 17 home runs. Courtney Nesbit leads the team with five homers, while Sam Lenahan and Heidi Shape both have three. That power has helped the Bulldogs score 84 runs, an average of 4.67 per game.

The problem comes in the circle. The staff has allowed an ERA of 4.66 on the year. Kylie Vry is the ace, tossing 56.2 innings so far, posting a 2.72 ERA with 45 strikeouts against 24 walks. Misty Flesher is second on the staff with a 4.38 ERA in 38.1 innings, posting two saves and a 2-1 record. The defense has not helped Mississippi State’s pitchers, giving up 25 errors on the season. Teams have also been able to run on MSU, giving up 13 stolen bases in 16 attempts.

Series History Versus Mississippi State
The Bulldogs own a slight 23-22 advantage in the series that began in 1985 and resumed when Mississippi State restarted the program with the SEC in 1997. In Starkville, the Bulldogs own a 10-9 lead, including taking two of three in the 2009 series there.

Last Series vs. Mississippi State – April 17-18, 2010
The Gamecocks got their only win of SEC play in 2010 in the second game of the three-game set at Beckham Field against Mississippi State.

Despite a comeback attempt in the seventh, South Carolina could not claim its first Southeastern Conference win as the Gamecocks dropped a 2-1 decision to Mississippi State.

Kaitlin Westfall hit a three-run home run to put South Carolina on top, and the Gamecocks held on to defeat Mississippi State, 8-4, in the second game. Hannah Milks went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, tallying career highs in both hits and runs. Evan Childs also posted a 3-for-3 effort with one run and one RBI. catcher P.J. Fulmer went 2-for-3 with three RBI. Jessica Cooley went 2-for-2 with two runs scored for the Bulldogs.

South Carolina got the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but the comeback could not be completed as Mississippi State took the final game of the series, 3-1, over the Gamecocks on Senior Day at Beckham Field. First baseman Laura Mendes went 2-for-4 with her team-leading 14th double, while she scored the only Gamecock run of the contest. Left fielder Kaitlin Westfall reached base three times, walking twice to go with her 1-for-2 day. Shortstop Evan Childs had an RBI single as well.

Great Start to the Season
The Gamecocks started things off a little better than they ended things on the field last year. With 13 wins thru 18 games, South Carolina has already surpassed its win total from last year before starting Southeastern Conference play.

Stats for South Carolina in SEC Openers and SEC Road Openers
The Gamecocks are 23-18 all-time in the first SEC series of the year, winning eight of the 14. In the first SEC game of the year, they are 9-5. South Carolina is 24-16 in the first SEC road series. In the first SEC road game of a season, the Gamecocks are 8-6. South Carolina has opened SEC play with the Bulldogs twice previously, in 2003 and 2004.

Hathorn Making the Most of Opportunity; Gets Award for her Work
Freshman Dana Hathorn has fought her way into the starting lineup and has been solid during her time since gaining the job. She drew her first start against Georgetown, and the Gamecocks have won nine of 11 since that contest. She has done her part, hitting .357 with 12 RBI in that frame. And she’s been a standout in the field, handling 58 chances with just one error at second base.

She earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors after her play in the final week leading into conference play. Hathorn hit .421 and posted seven of her 12 RBI in the five games from March 2-6. She enters SEC play with a five-game hitting and RBI streak.

Showing Off the Wheels
South Carolina has recorded 35 stolen bases in the early going of 2011. That total matches the 2001 team as the best in a decade. While a hard pace to maintain, it’s worth noting that the Gamecocks have stolen more bases than games played in just three seasons (1992, 94-95). And it’s not one person doing the work on the bases. Five different Gamecocks have tallied four or more stolen bases.

Childs on Tear
Junior Evan Childs has returned to the starting lineup with a vengeance. The infielder has started the last three games at third base, posting a pair of hits in each of those contests during the FAU Miken Classic. The Conway, S.C., native moves to the hot corner after starting 49 games at second base and 54 at shortstop over the first two-plus years of her career.

Unlucky So Far
South Carolina has won 13 games already, but some of their specialty stats seem to point towards much better things to come. With runners in scoring position, the Gamecocks have hit .274, eighth-best in the SEC. That includes a 1-for-13 mark with the bases loaded. In all situations, South Carolina holds a .315 batting average. If those numbers with runners in scoring position improve, it will be a big help to the Gamecocks going forward. Two of the highest games for a team with runners left on base in the league have been in two of the Gamecocks’ losses (11 against USC Upstate and Winthrop).

Gamecock Defense Carrying the Load
South Carolina’s defense has done most of the work this season in recording outs. In the 11-member SEC, the Gamecocks’ 5.25 strikeouts per seven innings is 10th. And when the defense is good, so are the Gamecocks. When making two or less errors, South Carolina is 13-2. If three or more errors are committed by the Garnet and Black, they are just 0-3.

One feature that stands out for the defense is the dearth of infield hits. Through 18 games, the Gamecocks have allowed five infield singles. In Monday’s stat report, the team was second in the SEC in assists 41 behind Ole Miss, who has played six more games than South Carolina.

Mendes Has Big Game in Win at Winthrop
Senior Laura Mendes posted another awe-inspiring day while powering the offense in South Carolina’s 6-1 win at Winthrop. She had a double, a triple and a home run to go with three RBI and two runs scored in the game. No other Gamecock has come that close to a cycle in the last 10 seasons.

Does the Pitching Staff Have a Case of the Glavines?
Former Atlanta Brave starter Tom Glavine was notorious for having issues in the first inning before settling down and handling the opposition the rest of the game. The Gamecock pitchers seem to be the same way. The staff ERA in the first inning is 3.11, while during the rest of games it is just 1.65.

Balanced Offense
South Carolina is not prominently displayed in the SEC’s individual stat rankings, but it would be bad for one to think that the team has not progressed at the plate. At the quarter-way point for 2011, the Gamecocks have already surpassed their 2010 total in stolen bases and sacrifice flies and tied last season’s home run total. The Garnet and Black have a batting average that is 99 points better than last year (.315-.216), an on-base percentage 104 points improved (.391-.287) and a slugging percentage 171 points better (.459-288).

In a Pinch? Go with Sarratt
Freshman Julie Sarratt has been the Gamecocks’ top hitting threat off the bench. She’s gone 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in her pinch hitting appearances. The rest of the Gamecocks are 2-for-11 coming off the bench.

Brossart Leads Gamecocks in Three True Outcomes at the Plate
Junior first baseman Molly Brossart has provided the Gamecocks with a steady glove at first and a good eye at the plate. Her 10 walks rank second on the team, but she also leads the squad with 12 strikeouts. Add that to her two home runs, and she has posted a three true outcomes percentage of .381, which matches her on-base percentage. Three true outcomes are the stats where the player has nearly all the control on how the plate appearance ends. Brossart also has had three sacrifice flies and three sac bunts, both tops on the team.

Broyles Hoping to Recapture Magic
The start of last season was nothing short of amazing for now redshirt sophomore Audrey Broyles. Among the SEC leaders in strikeouts and ERA during the first month of 2010, a shoulder injury shut her down right as SEC play kicked off. Even after two ineffective starts to end the year, Broyles still managed to hold foes to a .161 batting average in 42.1 innings of work. Now back healthy, Broyles looks to recapture her role as the ace of the staff. As a freshman, Broyles won 10 games and saved three more.

She has started rounding into form recently. It started in the first game against Elon. She allowed just two hits in the shutout win, striking out six without a walk on the day. She did it again in the game at Winthrop, going the distance while giving up just one earned run.

Sarratt A Stunner in First Two Weeks
Freshman Julie Sarratt was a revelation during her first two weeks in the Garnet and Black. She tossed a no-hitter in her debut against Coastal Carolina on Feb. 12, the 44th in documented history. She also tossed a shutout in her third start, shutting down Florida Gulf Coast.

She’s struggled as of late, giving up seven earned runs and 11 overall in her last 6.2 innings of work. Overall, the rookie is 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA. She’s struck out 32 batters in 33.1 innings of work and limited foes to a .156 batting average.

Sarratt and Broyles Shut Down Foes with Two Strikes
South Carolina’s two top starting pitchers, redshirt sophomore Audrey Broyles and freshman Julie Sarratt, become deadly to hitters when they get two strikes. Broyles holds foes to a 3-for-48 (.063) mark when any at bat ends with two strikes (0-2, 1-2, etc.). Sarratt is almost as strong, as opponents are 7-for-69 (.101) in those situations. Overall, the pitching staff has held opponents to a .130 batting average (27-for-208) in the two-strike circumstance.

Sarratt Toughest with Two Outs and Runners On
When on the brink of escaping an inning without damage, freshman Julie Sarratt becomes an even tougher pitcher than normal. With runners on and two outs, foes have gone 3-for-23 against Sarratt, drawing two walks. That includes an 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and two outs. The staff as a whole holds opponents to a .189 batting average with runners on and two outs and a .211 mark with the runners in scoring position and needing one out to end the frame.

Borchardt Back for Another Go in the Circle
In her first year at South Carolina, April Borchardt became a savior on the pitching staff. Primarily an outfielder during her freshman season at Northwest Florida State College, Borchardt went 14-4 for the Raiders as a sophomore before coming to Columbia. Last season, Borchardt led the Gamecocks in wins and ERA while tossing 75 innings. She may be used either as a speedy outfielder or as the relief ace again this season.

In the early going, she’s taken on the relief ace role. She’s gone 2-2 with one save in her 10 relief appearances, the most in the SEC. She’s compiled a 2.52 ERA, fanning 18 in 25 innings of work.

A First for Gamecock Pitchers
For the first time in recorded South Carolina softball history (since 1983), five different pitchers have recorded wins for the squad, and they all have two now. Five times previously four pitchers had gotten a “W” in one season: 1995, 1999, 2005, 2006 and 2009. Of course, this is just the fourth season that five players have pitched in a game. The other years were 2005, 2009 and 2010.

The Long Ball Effective for Gamecocks
South Carolina has already hit 11 home runs on the season, more than the high in two of the last three seasons. It has been a big help to the squad this season, as the Gamecocks are 9-1 in games where they have hit a homer. South Carolina has won just one game in which the Gamecocks did not record at least one triple or one home run.

Gamecocks Could Use a Faster Start
Maybe it takes the Gamecocks a little while to get going. Of South Carolina’s 100 runs, only six have come in the first inning. The initial frame is also the lowest for the Gamecocks in terms of batting average (.217), on-base percentage (.304) and slugging percentage (.304). Things improved on Sunday at the FAU Miken Classic, as South Carolina posted three runs in the two games that day.

Offensive Onslaughts More Prevalent than Last Three Seasons
On three occasions, South Carolina has tallied 10 or more runs in a game this season. That matches the total of 10-or-more run games in the 2008-10 seasons combined, a total of 143 games.

Samie’s the Sparkplug up Top
Sophomore shortstop Samie Garcia, in one weekend, proved why she was a key component brought to Columbia by head coach Beverly Smith for her first season. While she’s cooled off a bit recently, Garcia still leads the team in runs scored and has reached base in every Gamecock game. She’s posted a team-best seven stolen bases while her .420 on-base percentage is second on the squad. Last season, Garcia won Co-Cal JC Player of the Year accolades at Cerritos College.

Fulmer’s Ironwoman Streak Behind Dish Ends
Senior catcher P.J. Fulmer ranks as one of the toughest Gamecocks in history. Since earning the starting job during her freshman season, she’s only missed a handful of games. She even took a ball to the face during the fall, knocking out four teeth, and missed minimal time. But after making a spectacular catch in the final game of the Palmetto State Showdown against USC Upstate, the senior experienced some tightness in her back and neck. She missed the Winthrop contest on Feb. 16, breaking a streak of 89 straight starts. She has come back to start the last eight games.

Let Not Westfall’s Great Opening Weekend Go by the Wayside
Junior leftfielder Kaitlin Westfall came on strong toward the end of 2010, ending the year as the Gamecocks’ second-best hitter in SEC play. She’s built on that, currently ranking second among regulars in batting average (.364) and fourth in slugging percentage (.509).

She had a stellar opening weekend in the 2011 Palmetto State Showdown. In the SEC’s first stat rankings, she stood in the top 15 in the league in three categories, including tied for seventh with her 1.000 slugging percentage and 11th with 13 total bases. The Macon, Ga., native had a double, a triple and a home run during the first three games of the year.

Back to Bash Again
Laura Mendes has already made her way onto a handful of the Gamecocks all-time top-10 lists after three seasons in Columbia. Holding spots in hits per game, doubles per game and slugging percentage, the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., native ranks as the top returning Gamecock hitter. Her powerful left-handed bat should once again anchor the lineup. She’s led South Carolina in hits, doubles and triples in each of the last two seasons, while she also led the Gamecocks in numerous other categories as a junior.

Mendes had an amazing week prior to the SEC opener, going 10-for-19 with five extra-base hits and 10 RBI in the five games. That included the amazing performance at Winthrop (3/2), where she finished a single short of the cycle. She’s now leading South Carolina in five categories, including on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Pitches for Mendes to hit have not been there all season. In Monday’s stats from the league, she was tied for 12th in the SEC with 11 walks. That is four more walks than Mendes compiled in the 2010 season.

Lackey Legs Out Some (Recent) History
South Carolina junior Lauren Lackey has made an impact for the Gamecocks with her strong defensive play during her first two seasons as a Gamecocks. But this season, she put those legs to work at the plate. Her first career home run against Georgetown came the hard way as an inside-the-park job. It is at least the first inside-the-park home run since 2001, as none could be found in the archives from 2002-10.

Milks Making Waves Recently
Sophomore right fielder Hannah Milks has been a valuable member of the starting lineup this season, and lately she’s made more of an impact with her bat. She has played outstanding defense in right field, including the no-hitter-saving catch that ended the game against Coastal Carolina during the opening weekend. But in the first game versus Michigan State and Charlotte, she posted consecutive 3-for-4 outings. She victimized the Spartans for her first career home run in the second meeting. Milks now ranks second on the squad with six stolen bases, while she’s tied with Lackey with a team-best four bunt hits.

Carolina in the Month of March
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 411-200-3 (.672) in the third month of the year.