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April 8, 2011

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Coming off of a pair of midweek wins at home, the Gamecocks play the middle two games of the six-game non-conference stretch at Longwood this Saturday. First pitch for the doubleheader is slated for 1 p.m. EDT at Lancer Field. Live audio will be available at

Scouting the Longwood Lancers
The Lancers bring a 19-8 mark into the weekend after splitting a doubleheader at Radford on Wednesday. Longwood is led by its pitching staff and ace Briana Wells. She brings a 16-8 record and a 2.13 ERA into Saturday’s action. The senior has struck out 101 batters while walking 48 in 154.1 innings, working nearly 85 percent of the Lancers’ innings.

Brooke Short leads a trio of Longwood hitters with batting averages over .300. The sophomore leads the team in the slash stats at .391/.459/.724, posting seven homers and 28 RBI. Jordan Cox is second in batting average (.342) and RBI (19). Nichole Simmons is second in on-base percentage (.427) and leads the team with 12 stolen bases. The Lancers have amassed 35 stolen bases while only being caught three times.

Series History Versus the Lancers
South Carolina won the previous two meetings against Longwood, both coming in a doubleheader at Beckham Field last year on Feb. 16.

Last Meeting vs. Longwood – Feb. 16, 2010
Tying a single-game record with three doubles, Evan Childs helped lead South Carolina to a doubleheader sweep of Longwood with a 9-2 win in the second game at Beckham Field. Childs ties Ashley Smith’s mark, set on April 17, 2004, in a 3-for-4 outing. She drove in two runs and scored another, while Lauren Lackey and Laura Mendes both added two hits. That duo and Lindsay Walker all scored two runs, while Walker contributed her second home run of the season.

Carolina in the Month of April
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 349-199-1 (.637) in the fourth month of the year. In April SEC games, South Carolina is 98-109 (.473).

Great Start to the Season
The Gamecocks have eclipsed their record from last year. With 19 wins overall and three in Southeastern Conference action, South Carolina surpassed its win totals in both categories from 2010 before the halfway mark of this year, which the Gamecocks officially hit in the last game of the Auburn series.

Offensive Improvement Easy to See
South Carolina is not prominently displayed in the SEC’s team stat rankings, but it would be bad for one to think that the team has not progressed at the plate. At 37 games into the 2011 season, the Gamecocks have already surpassed their 2010 total in runs, hits, triples, home runs, hit-by-pitches, stolen bases and sacrifice flies. The Garnet and Black have a batting average that is 59 points better than last year (.275-.216), an on-base percentage 65 points improved (.352-.287) and a slugging percentage 108 points better (.396-.288).

South Carolina Making Defenses Work
The Gamecocks have done a great job putting balls in play this year. South Carolina stands at the bottom of the SEC standings in strikeout by its hitters, fanning just 152 times in 37 games. That’s second in the SEC for the fewest team K’s. The Gamecocks have benefited, hitting .309 on balls in play.

South Carolina Confident with Two Runs Scored
The Gamecocks own a 18-9 record when they score two runs or more in a game. That includes a 16-5 mark when posting three or more.

The Speed Proves Its Worth When Not There
South Carolina has gone 3-10 in games when it has not stolen a base. When swiping two or more, the Gamecocks are 13-3.

Showing Off the Wheels
South Carolina has recorded 58 stolen bases already in 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, 1994, 1995). And it’s not one person doing the work on the bases. Six different Gamecocks have tallied four or more stolen bases.

Four of those Gamecocks have nine or more. If all four get into double figures, that would make the 2011 team the first in South Carolina’s recorded history (since 1983) to have four individuals steal 10 or more bases. Only eight times has more than one Gamecock made it to 10+ SB in a year. Sophomore Hannah Milks joined the double-digit steals club first, most recently visited by Ashton Payne with her 13 steals in 2007. Junior Lauren Lackey joined Milks with 11 after stealing two at Coastal Carolina on March 22. Sophomore Samie Garcia made it a trio when she stole a base at No. 11 Tennessee on March 26.

The Long Ball Effective for Gamecocks
South Carolina has already hit 16 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 12-3 in games in which they have hit a homer. South Carolina has won just one game in which it did not record at least one triple or one home run. A six-game homerless drought ended at No. 11 Tennessee when Laura Mendes hit her 10th career homer in the first game of the series. Hannah Milks hit the Gamecocks’ first grand slam since 2008 on Sunday, March 27 in Knoxville.

Gamecocks Could Use a Faster Start
Maybe it takes the Gamecocks a little while to get going. Of South Carolina’s 170 runs, only 17 have come in the first inning. The initial frame is also the lowest for the Gamecocks in terms of batting average (.238), on-base percentage (.317) and slugging percentage (.315). Things improved on March 6 at the FAU Miken Classic, as South Carolina posted three first-inning runs in the two games that day. Four more runs came in the first on March 27 at No. 11 Tennessee on Hannah Milks’ grand slam.

The Gamecocks hit best in the sixth, compiling 35 runs with a batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage stats of .333/.398/.547. The fifth isn’t bad to the Garnet and Black, either, posting 37 runs with a slash line of .294/.402/.448.

Offensive Onslaughts More Prevalent than Last Three Seasons
On five 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 2007-10 seasons combined, a total of 207 games. The Gamecocks have also shortened five games this season, topping the total from the last three years.

Unlucky So Far
South Carolina has won 19 games already, but its of their specialty stats seem to point towards much better things to come. With runners in scoring position, the Gamecocks have hit .268, eighth-best in the SEC. That includes a 6-for-26 mark with the bases loaded, which stands 10th. In all situations, South Carolina holds a .275 batting average. If those numbers, especially with the bases loaded, 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).

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. She drew her first start against Georgetown, and the Gamecocks have won 16 games since that contest. She has more than done her part, leading the squad with 23 RBI while standing second with a .323 batting average. And she’s been a standout in the field, handling 136 chances with just two errors at second base.

She earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors on March 7 after her play in the final week leading into conference play. Hathorn hit .421 and posted seven 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 to post seven RBI and tie for the team lead in hitting during the first week of SEC play.

Gamecocks Have a Clutch Weapon in Hathorn
South Carolina freshman Dana Hathorn has been outstanding in the clutch this season. The rookie has a .349 batting average with runners on base and a .526 mark with runners in scoring position. She’s driven in nine runs in 12 chances with a runner on third and less than two outs. All of those marks lead the team.

Fulmer Limiting Foes’ Running Games
Senior P.J. Fulmer has been a good defensive catcher in the past, but this season she’s taken her throwing to a different level. Currently, teams are 16-for-25 (36% caught stealing) in stolen base attempts against Fulmer. Versus South Carolina, teams are 18-of-28, a 35.7% caught-stealing rate that ranks fourth in the league. Last season, Fulmer threw out 20 percent of those attempting to steal, just off of her 23 percent mark of 2009.

Childs Playing Well Since Move to Hot Corner
Junior Evan Childs has returned to the starting lineup with a vengeance. The infielder has started the last 14 games at third base, hitting .254 (16-for-63) at the spot. That includes three-consecutive three-hit games to close out the FAU Miken Classic. The Conway, S.C., native moved to the hot corner after starting 49 games at second base and 54 at shortstop over the first two-plus years of her career.

Her defense at the bag has improved greatly since starting. While she has seven errors, she’s also been a part of six double plays as well.

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.

Lackey Trying to Leg Out a Lot of 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 has done some damage at the plate. Lackey currently ranks second among the Gamecock regulars with a .494 slugging percentage. If she retakes the lead, she would stand with former Gamecock great and three-time All-American Tiff Tootle as a slap hitter who led her team in slugging percentage. She also ranks second on the team with 11 stolen bases and a .400 on-base percentage.

Earlier this season, Lackey made a fast trip around the bases with an inside-the-park home run against Georgetown, her first career round-tripper. It is the first inside-the-park home run since at least 2001, as none could be found in the archives from 2002-10.

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, Garcia still leads the team in hits (35), runs (23) and stolen bases (12). Last season, Garcia won Co-Cal JC Player of the Year accolades at Cerritos College.

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 third among regulars in batting average (.295) and slugging percentage (.421). She is likely to miss the week due to a back injury suffered prior to the Alabama series, as she snapped a 60-game consecutive starts streak sitting out last Friday’s game.

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. Entering the season among South Carolina’s top 10 in career categories like doubles per game, on-base percentage 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. Pitches for Mendes to hit have not been there all season. She’s posted 21 walks, tops on the team and 14 more than she compiled in the 2010 season.

Milks Making Waves
Sophomore right fielder Hannah Milks has been a valuable member of the starting lineup this season. She has played solid defense in the outfield, including the no-hitter-saving catch in right that ended the game against Coastal Carolina during the opening weekend. At the plate, she posted consecutive 3-for-4 outings in the first game versus Michigan State and Charlotte. Later, she victimized the Spartans for her first career home run in the second meeting. Milks ranks second among Gamecocks with 11 stolen bases and five bunt hits.

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 13 walks tie for tops on the team, but she also leads the squad with 17 strikeouts. Add that to her two home runs, and she has posted a three true outcomes percentage of .376. Three true outcomes are the stats, mentioned above, where the player has nearly all the control on how the plate appearance ends. Brossart also has had three sacrifice flies, tops on the team, and three sac bunts, tied for fourth.

First Base a Question for Gamecocks
Offensive production at first base has been a low spot for the Gamecocks. Going into the Tennessee weekend, three players have been tried there, just one less than in the designated player spot. Combined, the players manning first are 16-for-91 (.176), the lowest batting average of any defensive position. The 15 RBI are not bad, besting the catchers and third basemen in the infield. Molly Brossart has gotten the majority of the time there, with Julie Sarratt and Kelley Dillon both adding 11 at-bats each.

Laura Mendes manned first during the Tennessee series, going 2-for-6 with two RBI while also walking five times in the three games.

Gamecock Defense Carrying the Load
In the SEC overall stats, the Gamecock pitching staff’s 4.03 strikeouts per seven innings is 11th. The Gamecock defense been much stronger behind the pitchers this season, posting a .963 fielding percentage, over 20 points better than last year. Also, South Carolina is second in the SEC in assists, one behind an Ole Miss squad that has played two more games.

When the defense is good, the Gamecocks have a chance. When making two or less errors, South Carolina is 19-14. If three or more errors are committed by the Garnet and Black, they are 0-4.

Good Year for Defensive Improvements
South Carolina’s defense has picked up at the right time. In the last 10 years, the Gamecocks have never posted a defensive efficiency (the inverse of batting average on balls in play) better than .741. This season, the Gamecocks currently hold a .739 defensive efficiency. Last season was the worst in the 10 years that the stat has been compiled, as the Gamecocks had an efficiency rate of just .654.

Gamecock Pitchers Are Equal Opportunity Providers
The South Carolina pitching staff has kept the defense busy behind it, as 568 balls in play have been turned into outs behind them. Both the infield and outfield have been busy, with the Gamecocks ranking second in groundouts (8.34 per game) in the SEC and posting the outright most flyouts (7.69 per game) in the league. The pitchers have added 4.03 strikeouts per game, 11th in the SEC.

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 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. She did it again in the game at Winthrop, going the distance while giving up just one earned run. She now holds a 2.90 ERA and a 4-5 record, completing three games.

Broyles’s biggest problem has come in the later stages of games. Her ERA rises to 3.18 in the fourth and 3.62 in the fifth. If she makes it to the sixth, it balloons to 13.50. When she gets to the seventh, she’s fine, not giving up a run in the final inning of those three complete games She did allow two earned runs during a relief appearance at No. 11 Tennessee on March 27.

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 in the circle 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.

This year, Borchardt has taken on the relief specialist role. She’s gone 5-3 with two saves in her 21 relief appearances, the most in the SEC. She’s compiled a 4.08 ERA, fanning 30 in 46.1 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.

Sarratt Posts Stunning 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 South Carolina’s documented history. She also tossed a shutout in her third start, shutting down Florida Gulf Coast. Overall, the rookie is 5-5 with a 3.71 ERA, striking out 44 batters in 60.1 innings of work.

White Brings Big Sink
Junior Kierstyn White has posted the biggest difference between ground balls and fly balls on South Carolina’s staff. Of her outs recorded on balls in play, 45 have come on ground balls, compared to 11 fly balls. The same trend is seen on hits allowed, as 20 have either been infield hits are gone through the infield. Only 12 are recorded as hitting the outfield grass first.

As for her results, she’s had some strong moments. The best came in the complete-game win over Seton Hall at Florida Atlantic. She struck out a career-best six batters while giving up just two unearned runs.