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Sept. 11, 2015

Karen (Sanchelli) Johns (middle left) addressing the Gamecocks after practice

COLUMBIA, S.C. – With school back in session and no holidays in the way, South Carolina’s softball team started its fall practices in preparation for the 2016 season on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field.

“It’s exciting to be out here for a new year,” said Gamecock head coach Beverly Smith. “The energy level was high from all the players. The team worked so hard they were sweating through their shirts. We hit on everything in practice. I’m excited with what I saw on the field today.”

It’s the first day of practice for a handful of Gamecocks. Signees Kennedy Clark, Jessica Elliott, Lex Hull, Alexis Mack and Kenzi Maguire joined 16 returners from last year’s team that made the program’s third-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament under Smith and 18th in the program’s long history.

Pitching, hitting, defense and base running all were covered on day one for the team, with live hitting against Smith closing out the on-field portion of practice. Afterward, Karen (Sanchelli) Johns, who was inducted into the South Carolina Letterman’s Association Hall of Fame last night, addressed the team with a heartfelt speech on how to be better givers instead of takers, imploring the team to love, share and care each day in their lives and with their teammates.

“What a treat,” said Smith of having Johns back on campus. “It’s wonderful that South Carolina Softball is getting recognized with athletes going into the Hall of Fame. Having a two-time All-American and former South Carolina coach back imparting her wisdom on the team was a nice way to end practice. I am really proud to be able to tour her through this stadium. It’s a big change for her, coming back and seeing the facilities and how the Athletics Village has transformed.”

The fall exhibition schedule will be announced at a later date, but the Gamecocks will play at least two weekends of ball this fall.