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April 21, 2011

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Gamecocks play host to the Kentucky Wildcats over Easter weekend at Beckham Field in a critical three-game series. Good Friday’s game against the 33-10 Wildcats begins at 7 p.m. EDT, while Saturday’s contest is scheduled for 4 p.m. Easter Sunday’s finale is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch. Fans can listen to all three games for free at or follow Gametracker live stats.

Scouting the Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats stand at 33-10 overall and 11-6 in the Southeastern Conference, just three games in back of Tennessee for the top spot in the SEC East. Ranked in both national polls, No. 20/16 Kentucky brings an ace to town in Chanda Bell. She is 11-5 on the year with a 1.86 ERA, striking out 176 batters in 113 innings. Rachel Riley is the other experienced Wildcat pitcher, going 10-4 with a 3.00 ERA. She’s struck out 56 and walked 28 in 74.2 innings. Ellen Weaver (6-0, 3.07 ERA) and Lauren Cumbess (6-1, 1.87 ERA) also could see time in the circle this weekend. Weaver has struck out 61 hitters in 59.1 innings, including 34 in 27.1 during SEC play.

Kentucky’s offense is balanced, with four starters holding batting averages over .300 and four with on-base percentages of .400 or better. Brittany Cervantes holds the top spot for the Wildcats in on-base (.516) and slugging (.789) percentages, hitting 14 homers and driving in 48. Megan Yocke ranks second in both (.513/.647) and is also second in homers with nine. Kara Dill tops the everyday players with a .397 batting average and is tied with Meagan Aull with a team-high 17 stolen bases. Aull has a slash line of .374/.413/.592. Also note the power of Aull, Samantha DeMartine and the pitcher Riley, as all have seven homers. The Wildcats also have stolen 70 bases in 83 tries.

Series History Versus the Wildcats
South Carolina owns a 33-14 advatange all-time in the meetings, including a 18-6 lead in the Beckham Field encounters. Kentucky has won five of the last six, including a series win to end the 2009 season in Columbia.

Last Series vs. Kentucky – April 10-11, 2010
Kentucky shortened two games and swept the series at the UK Softball Complex last season, with wins of 11-3 (5), 4-3, and 8-0 (5). Molly Johnson led the Wildcats at the plate with a .750 batting average, scoring seven runs, while Megan Yocke hit one of Kentucky’s three homers on the weekend and tallied six of the 22 RBI. Meagan Aull reached base six times in nine trips and stole two bases. Bell collected two wins, striking out 19 in 10 innnings of work while posting a 0.70 ERA. Laura Mendes was the only Gamecock with more than a single hit on the weekend, going 4-for-7 at the plate.

Carolina in the Month of April
Since 1984, the Gamecocks are 354-203-1 (.635) in the fourth month of the year. In April SEC games, South Carolina is 100-110 (.476).

Great Start to the Season
The Gamecocks have eclipsed their record from last year. With 24 wins overall and five 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. After 46 games in 2011, the Gamecocks have surpassed their 2010 total in every offensive statistic except for three. South Carolina’s next at bat and sacrifice hit will push the team past last year’s total. The Garnet and Black have a batting average that is 58 points better than last year (.274-.216), an on-base percentage 66 points improved (.353-.287) and a slugging percentage 104 points better (.392-.288).

South Carolina Confident with Two Runs Scored
The Gamecocks own a 23-11 record when they score two runs or more in a game. That includes a 19-6 mark when posting three or more.

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 16-6.

Showing Off the Wheels
South Carolina has recorded 75 stolen bases already in 2011. That total matches the 1994 team and trails just two Gamecock teams in history: 1992 (79) and 1995 (87). It should lock the Gamecocks into more steals than games played for just the fourth time in history, joining 1992, 1994 and 1995.

And it’s not one person doing the work on the bases. Seven different Gamecocks have tallied four or more stolen bases, led by Samie Garcia and Hannah Milks with 15. Four have tallied double figures in thefts, making 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. Joining Garcia and Milks in double figures are Lauren Lackey 14 and Dana Hathorn 11.

The Long Ball Effective for Gamecocks
South Carolina has already hit 21 home runs on the season, matching the high of 2006 and 2007 in the past six years. It has been a big help to the squad this season, as the Gamecocks are 15-4 in games in which they have hit a homer. South Carolina has won just three games when the team did not record at least one triple or one home run.

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.

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 19 wins when outside of SEC play. 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 .133 and .229, respectively, against SEC pitching after posting the top two averages in SEC play in 2010. Senior P.J. Fulmer is actually hitting better in SEC play (.250) than out of it (.231).

Gamecocks Like Hitting Later in the Game
After the trip to Arkansas, it’s hard to complain about the Gamecocks’ offensive output in the first. But they sure seem to still prefer the fifth in sixth. The squad has posted 82 runs combined in the two innings. In the sixth, the squad posts a batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage stats of .317/.391/.508. The fifth has the Garnet and Black posting 43 runs with a slash line of .294/.393/.483.

Unlucky So Far
South Carolina has won 24 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 .263, eighth-best in the SEC. That includes a 6-for-30 mark with the bases loaded, which stands 11th. In all situations, South Carolina holds a .274 batting average. If those numbers, especially with the bases loaded, improve, it will be a big help to the Gamecocks going forward. On four occasions the Gamecocks have left at least 11 runners on base, including 12 in the lone loss at Arkansas.

South Carolina Making Defenses Work
The Gamecocks have done a great job putting balls in play this year. South Carolina has struck out 187 times in 46 games, the second-fewest number of K’s by a team in the SEC. The Gamecocks have benefited, hitting .306 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 21 games with Hathorn as a starter, with all 40 of her starts coming at second. 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 .310 batting average with runners on base and a .451 mark with runners in scoring position. She’s driven in nine runs in 13 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 22-for-34 (35.3% caught stealing) in stolen base attempts against Fulmer. Versus South Carolina, teams are 24-of-37, a 35.1% caught-stealing rate that ranks third 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.

Putting things another way, since the start of her sophomore season, Fulmer has not caught 27 innings total and not seen her name on the lineup card three times.

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 third among the Gamecock regulars with a .442 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 14 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 has continually proved why she was a key component brought to Columbia by head coach Beverly Smith for her first season. Last year’s co-Cal JC Player of the Year at Cerritos College, Garcia still leads the Gamecocks in hits (49), runs (28), stolen bases (15), on-base percentage (.406) and slugging percentage (.460). She enters the Kentucky weekend with a five-game hitting streak, scoring a run in four of the last five games. Dating back to the Alabama series, Garcia is 19-of-45 (.422) while posting the first four-hit day for a Gamecock since 2008 in the second game of the Arkansas series.

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. 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 tied for the team lead with 15 stolen bases, while her 10 bunt hits lead the squad.

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 21 walks are second on the team, but she leads the team with 22 strikeouts. Add that to her three home runs, and she has posted a three true outcomes percentage of .393. 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 returned to the starting lineup 11 games ago and has reached base safely in all of them. She led Gamecocks a 4-3 win at USC Upstate on April 13 with a big three-run blast to complete the comeback.

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 23-for-113 (.204), the lowest batting average of any defensive position. The 20 RBI are not bad, only topped by the second basemen in the infield. And the .372 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 second among regulars in slugging percentage (.455) and on-base percentage (.406). She is only missing from the runs scored in the batting categories for the Gamecocks. A back injury suffered prior to the Alabama series cost her a 60-game consecutive starts streak, but she’s started the past seven 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 4.00 strikeouts per seven innings is 11th. The Gamecock defense been much stronger behind the pitchers this season, posting a .964 fielding percentage, over 20 points better than last year. Also, South Carolina leads the league in assists.

When the defense is good, the Gamecocks have a chance. When making two or less errors, South Carolina is 24-18. 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 .744 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. The Gamecock defense stands second the SEC in groundouts (8.30 per game) and tops the league in flyouts (7.70 per game). The pitchers have added 4.00 strikeouts per game, 11th in the SEC.

Broyles Showing Signs of Old Form
The start of 2010 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. As a freshman, Broyles won 10 games and saved three more. This season, Broyles holds a 2.83 ERA and a 6-6 record, completing four games. Broyles’s biggest problem has come in the later stages of games. Her ERA rises to 3.77 in the fourth and 12.35 in the sixth. 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-144 (.139) mark when any at bat ends with two strikes (0-2, 1-2, etc.), including a 12-for-112 (.107) on the non-full count two-strike endings. Overall, the pitching staff has held opponents to a .195 batting average (102-for-523) in the two-strike circumstance and a .170 mark (69-for-405) 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 6-4 with two saves in her 26 relief appearances, the most in the SEC. She’s compiled a 4.32 ERA, fanning 32 in 56.2 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 7-7 with a 2.87 ERA, striking out 64 batters in 85.1 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 (23.2 innings), she’s gone 2-1, allowing two earned runs while posting 19 strikeouts against just two walks.