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March 10, 2011

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina looks for its first wins in Southeastern Conference play this weekend when it hosts Ole Miss for a three-game series this weekend at Beckham Field. Friday’s contest starts at 6 p.m. EST, while Saturday has a scheduled 2 p.m. first pitch. Sunday’s finale is slated for a 12 noon start. All games will be available via Gametracker and an audio live feed at

Scouting the Rebels
Ole Miss opens SEC play this weekend in Columbia, bringing a 9-15 record into the weekend series. The Rebels hit an SEC-worst .266, while also trailing everyone in on-base percentage (.359) and slugging percentage (.355). The pitching staff stands ninth with a 2.80 ERA, while defensively the Rebels are eighth with a .958 fielding percentage.

Brittany Broome and RT Cantillo front the Rebel attack offensively, both stealing six bases while posting on-base percentages above .450. Brittany Barnhill has been the power, with three of Ole Miss’ seven home runs while leading the team in RBI. Lindsey Perry tops the staff with a 2.15 ERA and two shutouts in nine starts. She’s struck out 58 batters while walking 21 in 55.1 innings of work. Barnhill has a 2.42 ERA, but she has walked 38 batters in 37.2 innings. Kendall Bruning has a 3.29 ERA, tossing a staff-high 61.2 innings and striking out 76 while walking 38.

Series History Versus Mississippi
The Gamecocks own a 21-13 lead in the series against the Rebels, but Ole Miss has taken six of the last seven. At Beckham Field, South Carolina has taken 12 of 18 games. The two teams split the doubleheader in Columbia in 2009.

Last Series vs. Ole Miss – March 10, 2010
The Rebels swept the SEC-opening doubleheader in Oxford. Mississippi starter Becky Nye stifled the South Carolina offense to lead the Rebels to a 3-0 win over the Gamecocks at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Nye pitched a two-hit shutout, fanning six Gamecocks compared to two walks.

The Ole Miss Rebels answered two early Gamecock runs to capture a 6-3 victory in game two of the doubleheader. Brittany Barnhill got the win, tossing 6.1 innings, allowing three runs, one earned, on three hits and six walks while striking out seven. Perry got the save, walking one in two-thirds of an inning. Hannah Milks scored two of the Gamecocks’ runs, a new career high.

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, South Carolina surpassed its win total from 2010 before starting Southeastern Conference play.

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 games since that contest. She has done her part, hitting .354 with 14 RBI in that frame. And she’s been a standout in the field, handling 66 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 saw her five-game hitting and RBI streaks end in the first game at Mississippi State but rebounded with a 2-for-4 outing with two RBI in the second.

Showing Off the Wheels
South Carolina has recorded 38 stolen bases in the early going of 2011. That total surpasses 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. Six 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 five games at third base, posting a pair of hits in three of those contests during the FAU Miken Classic. She carries a seven-game hitting streak into the Ole Miss series. 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 .272, ninth-best in the SEC. That includes a 1-for-13 mark with the bases loaded. In all situations, South Carolina holds a .306 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’ 5.09 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 13-4. 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 20 games, the Gamecocks have allowed seven infield singles. In Wednesday’s stat report, the team was second in the SEC in assists, 20 behind Ole Miss, who has played four 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.

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 90 points better than last year (.306-.216), an on-base percentage 95 points improved (.382-.287) and a slugging percentage 150 points better (.438-288).

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 11 walks tie her for the team, but she also leads the squad with 13 strikeouts. Add that to her two home runs, and she has posted a three true outcomes percentage of .394. 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 13 earned runs and 17 overall in her last 9.1 innings of work. Overall, the rookie is 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA. She’s struck out 33 batters in 36 innings of work and limited foes to a .199 batting average.

Broyles and Chastain Shut Down Foes with Two Strikes
South Carolina pitchers Audrey Broyles and senior Ashley Chastain become deadly to hitters when they get two strikes. Broyles holds foes to a 4-for-55 (.073) mark when any at bat ends with two strikes (0-2, 1-2, etc.). Chastain is equally as tough, with opponents going 2-for-27 (.074) in those situations. Overall, the pitching staff has held opponents to a .142 batting average (32-for-225) in the two-strike circumstance.

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 12 relief appearances, the most in the SEC. She’s compiled a 3.77 ERA, fanning 19 in 26 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 106 runs, only seven have come in the first inning. The initial frame is also the lowest for the Gamecocks in terms of batting average (.231), on-base percentage (.307) and slugging percentage (.308). Things improved on March 6 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 hits and runs scored, posting seven stolen bases while her .420 on-base percentage is third 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 every game since.

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 fourth among regulars in batting average (.333) and fourth in slugging percentage (.467).

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 four categories, including on-base percentage and runs driven in. Pitches for Mendes to hit have not been there all season. She’s posted 11 walks, four more 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 solid 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 leads the squad with eight stolen bases, while she’s second on the team with four bunt hits.

Carolina in the Month of March
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 411-202-3 (.670) in the third month of the year.