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April 14, 2011

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – With 12 games left in South Carolina’s SEC schedule, the Gamecocks hit crunch time with an important three-game set at Arkansas. Two of the contests will be on television, starting with Saturday’s contest on SportSouth at 1 p.m. EDT. Sunday’s finale, shown nationwide on ESPNU, begins at 3 p.m. EDT. Friday’s game, the only one not on TV, is slated for an 8 p.m. EDT first pitch. Live audio will be available for the series at

Scouting the Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas enters the weekend with a 10-32 record on the year and a 1-18 mark in SEC play. Not much has gone right for the Razorbacks, as they rank last in the SEC in batting average and fielding percentage and 10th in ERA.

No pitcher on Arkansas’ staff holds an ERA under 4.00. Kim Jones has struck out 82 in 94.1 innings, but she’s also allowed opponents to hit .309 against her while posting a 4.75 ERA and a 2-12 record. Hope McLemore has been slightly better, with foes hitting .260 against her and striking out 69 times in 78 innings. McLemore is 4-10 with a 4.49 ERA, giving up 17 homers in the process. Layne McGuirt is the third starter, going 2-8 with a 4.18 ERA in 58.2 innings. She’s walked 43 and fanned 37.

Becca Carden leads the Hogs at the plate, posting team highs in batting average (.339), slugging percentage (.591), doubles (8), triples (3), homers (6), RBI (23) and stolen bases (8). Jayme Gee has tried to help in SEC play, posting a .293 average in conference games. No other Razorback, however, is within 35 points of a .300 batting average in league play in the unsettled lineup. A total of 17 hitters have appeared in Arkansas’ starting lineup in 19 SEC games.

Series History Versus the Razorbacks
South Carolina owns a 23-14 advantage in the all-time series against Arkansas, but the Hogs have taken five of the last six meetings dating back to 2008. In Fayetteville, the Gamecocks are 11-5 but dropped their only two games at Bogle Park back on March 11, 2009.

Last Series vs. Arkansas – March 17, 2010
The Razorbacks came to Columbia and swept a doubleheader from the Gamecocks, winning the contests 8-5 and 3-2. Becca Carden drove in three runs on the day, tying for the team lead, while Hope McLemore tossed a complete game in game one before coming back to capture the save in game two. She struck out eight in eight innings total. Kaitlin Westfall went 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI in the games, while both P.J. Fulmer and Laura Mendes posted two RBI with an extra-base hit.

Carolina in the Month of April
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 351-201-1 (.636) 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 21 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.

Gamecocks Need to Translate Non-Conference Play into SEC Wins
South Carolina has played much better softball all around in 2011, but the biggest difference has been in non-conference play. The Gamecocks own 18 wins when outside of SEC play, including going 4-2 since the squad’s last SEC games. The team hopes that momentum continues this weekend at Arkansas.

Some better hitting from a pair of SEC veterans would help immensely. Senior Laura Mendes and junior Kaitlin Westfall have been less than themselves in league play this year, hitting .147 and .189, respectively, against SEC pitching after posting the top two averages in SEC play in 2010.

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. After 41 games in 2011, the Gamecocks have already surpassed their 2010 total in every offensive statistic other than at bats, strikeouts and sacrifice hits. The Garnet and Black have a batting average that is 55 points better than last year (.271-.216), an on-base percentage 66 points improved (.353-.287) and a slugging percentage 107 points better (.395-.288).

South Carolina Confident with Two Runs Scored
The Gamecocks own a 19-10 record when they score two runs or more in a game. That includes a 17-6 mark when posting three or more.

Looking for Better Showing on TV
South Carolina will be featured for the second time in its history on ESPNU this weekend at Arkansas, while SportSouth picks up its second Gamecock game of the year. The Gamecocks hope to reverse a trend, that has seen the squad drop six of its last seven televised contests, including an 8-0 loss in six at Kentucky on ESPNU last season.

No Southpaws Please!
South Carolina has not figured out lefty pitchers this year, going 1-7 against starting southpaws. The team’s batting average against lefties is just .228.

The Speed Proves Its Worth When Not There
South Carolina has gone 4-11 in games when it has not stolen a base. When swiping two or more, the Gamecocks are 14-4.

Showing Off the Wheels
South Carolina has recorded 62 stolen bases already in 2011. That total surpasses the 2001 team as the best in a decade and trails just three Gamecock teams in history: 1992 (79), 1994 (75) and 1995 (87). While a hard pace to maintain, it’s worth noting that the Gamecocks have stolen more bases than games played only in the three seasons mentioned earlier.

And it’s not one person doing the work on the bases. Six different Gamecocks have tallied four or more stolen bases, led by Samie Garcia’s 13. Four have nine or more steals. 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 after stealing two at Coastal Carolina on March 22. Garcia made it a trio when she stole a base on March 26 at No. 11 Tennessee.

The Long Ball Effective for Gamecocks
South Carolina has already hit 19 home runs on the season, more than the high in each of the last three seasons. It has been a big help to the squad this season, as the Gamecocks are 13-4 in games in which they have hit a homer. South Carolina has won just twice when the team 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 183 runs, only 18 have come in the first inning. The initial frame is also the lowest for the Gamecocks in terms of batting average (.224), on-base percentage (.307) and slugging percentage (.314).

The Gamecocks hit best in the fifth and sixth, compiling 80 runs combined in the two innings. In the sixth, the squad posts a batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage stats of .323/.398/.537. The fifth has the Garnet and Black posting 41 runs with a slash line of .302/.408/.475.

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 21 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 .260, ninth-best in the SEC. That includes a 6-for-27 mark with the bases loaded, which stands 10th. In all situations, South Carolina holds a .271 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).

South Carolina Making Defenses Work
The Gamecocks have done a great job putting balls in play this year. South Carolina has struck out 169 times in 41 games, the second-fewest number of K’s by a team in the SEC. The Gamecocks have benefited, hitting .304 on balls in play.

Hathorn Making the Most of Opportunity; Gets Award for her Work
Freshman Dana Hathorn fought her way into the starting lineup earlier this season and has been a solid contributor since seeing her name penciled in against Georgetown. The Gamecocks have won 18 games with Hathorn as a starter, with all 35 of her starts coming at second. She has more than done her part, leading the squad with 24 RBI while standing second with a .313 batting average. And she’s been a standout in the field, handling 151 chances with just two errors at the keystone.

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.

Gamecocks Have a Clutch Weapon in Hathorn
South Carolina freshman Dana Hathorn has been outstanding in the clutch this season. The rookie has a .329 batting average with runners on base and a .477 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 her throwing has been better. Currently, teams are 20-for-31 (35.5% caught stealing) in stolen base attempts against Fulmer. Versus South Carolina, teams are 22-of-34, a 35.3% 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.

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 .460 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 third on the team with 11 stolen bases.

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 (40), runs (24) and stolen bases (13). Last season, Garcia won Co-Cal JC Player of the Year accolades at Cerritos College.

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 anchors 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.

Pitches for Mendes to hit have not been there all season. She’s posted 24 walks, tops on the team and 17 more than she compiled in the 2010 season. That’s also four walks from tying for seventh on the single-season charts at South Carolina. But she has been effective overall, leading the Gamecocks in on-base and slugging percentages. She’s one homer from tying for 10th all-time in South Carolina history.

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 is second on the squad with 12 stolen bases, while her six bunt hits also rank second.

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 16 walks are second on the team, but she is tied for the team lead with 20 strikeouts. Add that to her three home runs, and she has posted a three true outcomes percentage of .398. 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 four sac bunts, tied for third.

Brossart has started the past six games at first, reaching base safely in all of them. She also carries a three-game hitting streak into the weekend, the last hit a big three-run blast to give the Gamecocks a 4-3 win at USC Upstate on April 13.

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 21-for-100 (.210), the lowest batting average of any defensive position. The 19 RBI are not bad, besting the catchers and third basemen in the infield. And the .364 on-base percentage is better than all but the shortstops and outfielders. 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.

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 slugging percentage (.438). A back injury suffered prior to the Alabama series cost her a 60-game consecutive starts streak, but she’s started the past four games in left.

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.

Gamecock Defense Carrying the Load
In the SEC overall stats, the Gamecock pitching staff’s 3.95 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 one behind leader Ole Miss in the team assist category.

When the defense is good, the Gamecocks have a chance. When making two or less errors, South Carolina is 21-16. 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 .749 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.

Right Side Getting It Done
The strength in South Carolina’s defense seems to be the right side of the infield. Newcomers Molly Brossart and Dana Hathorn have started the majority of games there, and between them, they have committed just four errors in 359 chances. That is a big boost to a defense that carries a .963 fielding percentage into the weekend at Arkansas.

Gamecock Pitchers Are Equal Opportunity Providers
The South Carolina pitching staff has kept the defense busy behind it, as 625 balls in play have been turned into outs behind them. Both the infield and outfield have been busy, with the Gamecocks leading the SEC in groundouts (8.44 per game) and ranking second in flyouts (7.69 per game). The pitchers have added 3.92 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.

This season, Broyles holds a 3.10 ERA and a 5-6 record, completing four games. Broyles’s biggest problem has come in the later stages of games. Her ERA rises to 4.08 in the fourth and 3.28 in the fifth. If she makes it to the sixth, it balloons to 12.35. When she gets to the seventh, she’s fine, not giving up a run in the final inning of those four complete games. She did allow two earned runs during a relief appearance at No. 11 Tennessee on March 27.

Broyles Shuts Down Foes with Two Strikes
South Carolina pitcher Audrey Broyles become deadly to hitters when they get two strikes. Broyles holds foes to a 20-for-132 (.152) mark when any at bat ends with two strikes (0-2, 1-2, etc.), including a 12-for-105 (.114) on the non-full count two-strike endings. Overall, the pitching staff has held opponents to a .185 batting average (85-for-460) in the two-strike circumstance and a .156 mark (56-for-358) in the ABs ending in 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2 counts.

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.

This year, Borchardt has taken on the relief specialist role. She’s gone 5-3 with two saves in her 23 relief appearances, the most in the SEC. She’s compiled a 4.01 ERA, fanning 32 in 52.1 innings of work. Only 19 percent (3 of 16) of her inherited runners have scored, the best rate on the staff.

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 6-6 with a 3.32 ERA, striking out 51 batters in 69.2 innings of work. Her most recent start was a one-hit shutout of Coastal Carolina, striking out six in the April 11 contest. Over her last five outings (18 innings), she’s struck out 14 and walked four.

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.

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 Gamecock has come that close to a cycle in the last 10 seasons.

Gamecocks Gain Confidence from Come-From-Behind Win
The South Carolina team did something that only two current members of the team can remember: post a seventh-inning comeback to win a game. The Feb. 19 meeting against Villanova saw the Gamecocks post four runs in the seventh to take the win. The last time the Gamecocks won a game in which they trailed after six innings was on April 9, 2008, when Laura Mendes tied the game with an RBI single and Jill Semento cemented the comeback with a grand slam at Coastal Carolina.

Infusion of Winning Personalities and Talent
A total of 10 newcomers joined the South Carolina roster this fall, including five from the junior college ranks. Four of those players competed in the NJCAA World Series at their two-year schools. Both Kylie Morin and Molly Brossart helped Yavapai College to the tourney while Kaela Jackson helped Chattanooga State there in 2010. Morin and Yavapai went in 2009 as well as Jackie Slawson and Spartanburg Methodist College. The fifth player, Cal Junior College Co-Player of the Year Samie Garcia, participated in a super regional at Cerritos College during her only season at the level.

Coaches Also Know a Bit about Winning
The JUCO additions are not the only newcomers to the South Carolina softball program who know about winning. Both head coach Beverly Smith and assistant coach Janelle Breneman came to the Gamecocks from North Carolina, which has been ranked in the top 25 in each of the last five seasons, while the Tar Heels made NCAA Tournament appearances in eight years during Smith’s tenure. Calvin Beamon also knows a litle about winning, claiming crowns at all three of his amatuer stops. A high school state champion at Smoky Hill High School in Cherry Creek, Colo., Beamon won a JUCO title at the College of Southern Nevada and the College World Series during his year at Texas.

There’s Depth, A Lot of Depth
South Carolina’s softball roster this season is comprised of 23 student-athletes, possibly the largest in program history (still needs research). That depth, plus the versatility of the student-athletes, presents many options to head coach Beverly Smith this spring. Every position outside of catcher has at least three players on the depth chart, with some spots going as deep as nine.

Sunshine State Flavor
The Gamecocks have players from all over the country, including at least one from 10 states. Behind South Carolina, Florida has the most players on the 2011 team, with one in each class. Senior Laura Mendes leads the pack, with junior Kandyce Redondo and redshirt sophomore Audrey Broyles both in their third year on campus. Rounding out the Sunshine State quartet is freshman Dana Hathorn, who, hailing from Orlando, is the only player of the foursome not from the greater Palm Beach area.