March 3, 2016
Gamecock Seniors: Changing the Culture
Gamecock Seniors: Leaving a Legacy
Page – The Loose Leader
Gamecock Freshmen Build Connection before Columbia
Unique Recruiting Trip Impacts Future Gamecocks
Accountability Program for Gamecock Softball
Plew Whitlock Returns Home
Elliott Driven for Success
Augustus Honing Leadership Skills
Video: Softball – The First 18
Gamecock Softball Part of Week of Giving
Webb Part of Mission Trip to Honduras
Gamecock Alums Reunite for Wounded Warrior Amputee Game
Page Goes Behind the Scenes at Colonial Life Arena
WWP Makes Jen Castro Gamecock for a Day
Gamecock Invitational Brings Three Foes in for South Carolina This Weekend
- South Carolina welcomes Kennesaw State, Michigan State and UConn to town for this weekend’s Gamecock Invitational.
- Every game will have Gametracker live stats on GamecocksOnline.com, while South Carolina’s games will broadcast on the SEC Network + via WatchESPN.com.
- The Gamecocks take on the KSU Owls on Friday at 4 p.m., before facing MSU and UConn in a doubleheader starting on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
- Sunday will feature rematches, with the consolation game taking place at 12:30 p.m. and the championship at 3 p.m., unless UConn makes the championship, which would reverse the order.
South Carolina’s Offense Producing Early
- South Carolina’s offense has been clicking early, and it starts with leadoff batters reaching base.
- The Gamecocks have the third-best percentage in the SEC for their leadoff batters reaching base at .577, behind only Georgia and Auburn.
- Only once have the Gamecocks not gotten the leadoff runner on more than once, that in the last win over Western Carolina.
- South Carolina also has tallied 41 RBI in 62 chances with a runner on third and less than two outs.
- That .661 conversion rate is second in the league, behind Kentucky.
- South Carolina has also struck out looking 11 times in 16 games, the second-lowest total in the SEC (behind Alabama’a 10).
South Carolina Team Notes
- South Carolina pitchers Nickie Blue and Jessica Elliott combined for the first no-hitter in six years for the Gamecocks on Tues., March 1, blanking Western Carolina in a 1-0 victory.
- South Carolina’s defense has been outstanding thus far, posting a .984 fielding percentage, which stands second in the SEC.
- The Gamecocks have tallied the most assists in a game among SEC teams this year, with 16 coming in the win over UC Santa Barbara (2/27).
- The Gamecocks started the season 9-1, the best start since the team went 12-1 to being 2009.
- South Carolina is the only SEC team to improve its win total in each of the past three season, going from 23 wins in 2012 to 38 in 2015.
- Two of South Carolina’s signees for next season, Cayla Drotar and Mackenzie Boesel, made the USA Today High School/American Family Insurance All-USA Preseason Softball Team.
2016 Accolades and Accomplishments for Alaynie Page
- Senior Alaynie Page has already moved up in many career lists, found on page 8 of the notes.
- Notably, she’s seven homers from matching the career record set by McKenna Hughes (2004-07).
- Page is one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, which stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in SchoolÂ®.
- The returning first-team All-American also ranked as 50 players placed on the USA Softball National Player of the Year watch list.
- She reached base at a .550 clip in the first five home games, stealing four bases, posting six RBI and hitting her second homer of the season.
- Page has a 13-game hitting streak and has reached base in all but one game (vs. Virginia Tech, 2/13).
Blue Starting to Climb Gamecock Pitching Charts
- Junior Nickie Blue enters 2016 with her name already showing up in South Carolina’s career top 15 in many pitching categories (see page 8).
- She will once again anchor South Carolina’s staff with her heavy drop ball producing ground outs at a 65 percent rate (506-269) in her first two years on campus.
- She also tossed her first shutout of the year with a complete-game blanking of Longwood on Feb. 21.
Snaer on Fire
- Junior first baseman Kaylea Snaer has started 2016 on a tear, leading the SEC with nine doubles while hitting .435.
- The Rowland Heights, Calif., native is more than halfway to the Gamecock single-season doubles charts, where 14 ties one for 15th.
- It’s a different start than last year, when Snaer went 9-for-53 (.170) with no extra base hits through 20 games.
- She still managed to finish tied for second on the team with seven homers and third with seven doubles while hitting .275.
- Snaer already ranks first in SC history in walks per game and in the top five in homers and RBI per game (see full updates on page 8).
Newcomers Contributing Early for South Carolina
- The five newcomers to the 2016 Gamecocks have all made their presence known.
- Junior Jessica Elliott has gone 9-0 with a 0.88 ERA in 13 appearances, striking out 34 while walking 19 in 45.2 innings of work.
- Freshman outfielder Kennedy Clark has started every game, one of three Gamecocks to do that, and leads the team in on-base (.550) and slugging (.727) percentages to go with her team best of four home runs.
- Clark tied the program record with two round-trippers in the Ohio win.
- Freshman Kenzi Maguire has started 11 games at shortstop and is tied for the team lead with five hit-by-pitches.
- Alexis Mack, a freshman who set Ohio high school’s all-time stolen base record, is tied for second on the team in both runs scored (10) and stolen bases (3).
- Finally, Lex Hull is 3-for-10 at the plate and has started behind the plate in four Gamecock wins.
We Schedule Tough
- On this year’s schedule, the Gamecocks are set to play 23 of their 56 regular-season games against teams who made the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
- Ten of those come against Women’s College World Series participants, the season opener vs. Michigan and three each in SEC play at Auburn and LSU and at home against Alabama.
- A total of 37 of the Gamecocks’ scheduled games come against teams that finished in the top 101 of the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index last year.
- Thirty-three games are set for Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field, including visits from former Gamecocks turned assistant coaches Chelsea Hawkins (UNC Greensboro), Kaela Jackson (Michigan State) and Chrissy Schoonmaker (Connecticut).
Offensive Records Falling Regularly for Gamecocks under Smith
- In head coach Beverly Smith’s first five years, the Gamecocks have broken team offensive records 24 times (tracked on page 14 in these notes).
- South Carolina broke four more team offensive records in 2015: home runs (60), HR per game (1.00), on-base percentage (.391) and slugging percentage (.473).
- Smith’s teams have set the home run and slugging percentage records now in four-straight seasons and the on-base percentage mark in each of the last three.
- While not a record, the Gamecocks have hit .291 over the past four seasons, 75 points higher than the year before Smith came to Columbia.
Gamecock Pitching Making Strides
- Smith’s pupils in the circle have also improved greatly in her first five seasons.
- Gamecock pitching has improved its strikeout-to-walk ratio in each of the past three seasons.
- Junior Nickie Blue, who led the nation in saves as a freshman, posted over 200 innings in the circle and an ERA under 2.00 in 2015, one of two in the SEC to post such numbers (Lauren Haeger of Florida the other).
- Blue’s 165 strikeouts last season rank 14th in Gamecock history.
- Graduate Julie Sarratt put her name in the career top 10 for pitchers in eight major categories, including a tie for third in appearances (142).
Page Soared in 2015
- Last season, left fielder Alaynie Page became the first Gamecock under head coach Beverly Smith to earn NFCA All-America accolades, garnering a spot on the first team.
- Page also gained first-team All-SEC honors from the coaches, the second under Smith (Lauren Lackey, 2012).
- First-team All-SEC honorees Page and Auburn’s Emily Carosone finished 2015 in the top 40 in the country in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
- Page led the team in 12 offensive categories, including batting average (.446), slugging percentage (.826), runs (58), hits (82), doubles (11), triples (7), home runs (15) and RBI (45).
- The Gamecocks’ leadoff hitter reached base 61.5 percent of the time she’s led off an inning.
- Only on three occasions did she not reached base safely in a game (Western Carolina 2/26, No. 21/20 Missouri 3/9, at No. 14/16 Kentucky-1 4/18).
- Page moved runners up at a team-best 60.8 percentage in 79 opportunities.
Gamecocks Have a Rich History in NCAA Tournament
- South Carolina earned its 18th bid in the NCAA Tournament last season, its third straight under head coach Beverly Smith.
- The Gamecocks are 34-35 in those trips, making three Women’s College World Series in their history (1983, 1989 and 1997).
- The program has five AIAW World Series trips in its history as well prior to 1982.
- Seven position player starters return for the Gamecocks from last year’s squad.
- SC lost four seniors who combined to start 143 games, including every start at catcher and 57 of 60 starts in centerfield.
- Every major offensive category leader from 2015 returns for the Gamecocks, 14 of those by Alaynie Page.
- The Gamecocks return over 70 percent of its offense in most categories, from 79.9 percent of their walks to 71.7 percent of the home runs.
- The highest percentage lost in any offensive category is triples at 37.5, with five of those by Kristen Struett.
- Forty of the Gamecocks’ 41 stolen bases return.
- In the circle, 53.1 percent of the innings return, most by staff ace Nickie Blue.
- Blue also brings back 61.4 percent of the team’s strikeouts.
- Five newcomers join the squad, led by NJCAA Pitcher of the Year Jessica Elliott.
- The team is dominated by South Carolina natives, with 25 percent of the roster (five players) hailing from the Palmetto State. California is second with four players.
- The Gamecocks hail from 11 states this year, with the newcomers coming from California, Florida, Kentucky and Ohio.
- Nickie Blue and Hayley Copeland are the first Gamecock duo who are both over six-feet tall.
- While both Williams’ and juniors by class, Taylor and Victoria are not sisters.
Preseason Nuggets for the Gamecocks
- Fledgling outlet College Sports Madness honored senior Alaynie Page on its Preseason All-America second team, while she also made the Preseason All-SEC team from the site and the league’s coaches.
- Junior Nickie Blue made College Sports Madness’s All-SEC second team in the preseason.
- In a preseason poll of SEC coaches, the Gamecocks ranked 11th of 13. It’s a prediction South Carolina has bettered in each of the previous two seasons.
South Carolina Staff Has Top Credentials
- Gamecock head coach Beverly Smith has been a part of 11 NCAA Tournament teams as a coach (eight at UNC, three at South Carolina).
- Associate head coach Lisa Navas has been to five NCAA Tournaments as an assistant coach (three at SC, one each at UNC and Missouri) and eight as a head coach (six Division II at Barry, two at NC State). Her 1998 Barry squad played in the national championship game.
- Assistant coach Calvin Beamon has three titles to his credit as a player, the biggest a College World Series title at Texas during 2005.
- He also won the NJCAA Division I title in 2003 at the College of Southern Nevada and a high school state championship at Smoky Hill High School in Cherry Creek, Colo.
- Volunteer assistant Tina Plew Whitlock played on the last Gamecock team to make the Women’s College World Series and has coached teams to the NCAA Tournament at the Division II level.
South Carolina Softball Historical Record
- South Carolina has played 2,140 games in its softball history, going 1392-741-7 (.652) in its 41st season of sponsorship.
Scouting Kennesaw State
- The Owls are 10-2 on the year, losing their first road game on Wed. in extra innings at Georgia State.
- All seven top hitters this season are returning starters from last year’s 32-19 team that finished third in the Atlantic Sun.
- Kennesaw State has drawn 48 walks in 12 games, with only one batter not drawing a walk thus far.
- The Owls also have stolen 37 bases in 41 tries.
- Senior Missy Perkowski leads the team with a .488 on-base percentage after hitting .224 with seven sacrifice hits a year ago.
- Junior Taylor Denton topped the returning Owls with a .364 batting average and nine sac bunts in 2015.
- Senior Hillary Kartman last year hit 13 home runs, and this year she has a team-best three doubles and seven walks.
- Senior Kara Chambers stole 18 bases in 21 tries last season, and this season she’s second on the team with six stolen bags, tied with Denton.
- Redshirt junior Courtney Sutter has five home runs already after hitting seven last year.
- Senior Megan Veringa leads KSU with 10 RBI to go with two homers, a year after topping the tema with 46 RBI and adding 10 doubles and nine round-trippers.
- The Owls did lose Natalie Rhodes, who stole 17 bases and hit eight triples last year.
- In the circle, ace Paige Mathews departed after tossing 139 innings, striking out 117 and walking 39 with a 3.63 ERA.
- Junior Logan Viers leads the team this season with a 5-0 record in 11 starts, posting a 1.24 ERA in 39.2 innings. She’s struck out 45 and walked only three.
- Senior Morgan Sikes has struck out 17 in 24 innings, allowing only one walk to post a 1.17 ERA.
Ties Between South Carolina and Kennesaw State
- Owl sophomore Noelle Winkles played on the TN Fury travel-ball team, the same group that Gamecock junior Effie Manahan and freshman Lex Hull spent time with in their youth careers.
The Last Meeting – South Carolina vs. Kennesaw State – March 2, 2013
- South Carolina won the only previous matchup by a score of 12-3 (5) at Georgia Southern.
- Alaynie Page went 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored, while Chelsea Hawkins had two home runs and a double to lead the offense.
Scouting Michigan State
- The Spartans are 9-6 on the year, going 3-2 last weekend with both losses coming at Florida Atlantic.
- Five offensive starters return from last year’s 19-36 team.
- Leading those returners is Lea Foerster, who made the All-Big Ten second team as a freshman with 12 doubles and 31 RBI.
- This season, Foerster has three doubles and five RBI.
- Junior Sarah Gutknecht has four doubles and ranks third on the team with seven RBI.
- Freshman Celeste Wood has been strong, posting two homers and 15 RBI while also stealing five bases in six tries.
- Michigan State stole 51 bases last year total, but Wood and McKenzie Long have already helped the Spartans to take 19 this year.
- Redshirt sophomore Lindsey Besson, who missed most of last season, has come back to knock in eight RBI and add three doubles.
- Redshirt sophomore Kristina Zalewski returns as the team’s ace, and she’s looked it with 55 strikeouts against 19 walks in 46.2 innings this season.
- Zalewski posted a 3.65 ERA in 172.2 innings last year, striking out 141 while walking 56.
- Redshirt junior Dani Goranson and sophomore Bridgette Rainey have tossed a combined 51 innings, just a season after the duo combined to throw 111.1 innings.
Ties Between South Carolina and Michigan State
- Spartan assistant coach Kaela Jackson is very familiar with Columbia, spending two years as a player, two years as a graduate student manager and a season as volunteer assistant for the Gamecocks.
- MSU sophomore Lea Foerster played with the Beverly Bandits group that produced SC’s Jordyn Augustus and Alexis Mack.
SC Series History vs. the Spartans
- South Carolina has 5-2 mark all-time against the Spartans, winning the only previous meeting at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field.
The Last Meeting – Michigan State at South Carolina – Feb. 22, 2014
- Nickie Blue posted her first career shutout with a 9-0 (5) victory over Michigan State in the 2014 Gamecock Invitational.
- Alaynie Page doubled, scored a run and drove in another in the win, while Kaylea Snaer had a two-RBI single.
- The Huskies enter the weekend with a 3-11 mark, one year after going 18-35.
- Seven offensive starters are back as well as two pitchers.
- Chelsea Eckert led the Huskies with a 4.44 ERA last year, striking out 70 and walking 74 in 127.2 innings.
- This season, the sophomore Eckert has a 5.13 ERA in 30 innings.
- Junior Kayla Doty has a 2.66 ERA this season in 23.2 innings, but more walks (10) than K’s (7). Last season, she tossed 57.2 innings.
- Freshman Jill Stockley has led the team in the circle, tossing 39 innings with a 1.26 ERA, striking out 23 and walking 11.
- UConn is looking to replace last year’s top hitter Emily O’Donnell, who led the team in batting average, slugging percentage and RBI.
- Junior Taylor Townsend returns a year after leading the Huskies in on-base percentage (.428).
- Last year, Dominique Pinto had five home runs, tied for second on the team.
- This year, Townsend and Pinto have three doubles each.
- Senior Alyssa Gardea had three triples and tied with senior Lexi Gifford with five stolen bases in 2015.
- Gardea and senior Jacklyn Dubois both have six RBI this season.
Ties Between South Carolina and UConn
- Huskie assistant Chrissy Schoonmaker is very familiar with Columbia, spending two years as a volunteer assistant for Beverly Smith and the Gamecocks after lettering four years for South Carolina (2004-08).
SC Series History vs. the Huskies
- South Carolina has a 5-0 mark all-time against Connecticut, including a 3-0 mark in Columbia.
The Last Meeting – South Carolina vs. Connecticut – March 10, 2000
- The Gamecocks downed UConn 1-0 in Tampa, Fla.
- Jodi Fittro scored the only run on a double steal in the third. Joyce McMillin tossed 6.2 innings of shutout ball, and Megan Matthews came in to get the last out to get the save.
Gamecocks Off the Diamond
- The 2015 Gamecocks posted the team’s best GPA at 3.442.
- Thirteen Gamecocks garnered NFCA Scholar-Athlete honors in 2014-15, the most in the past five seasons.
- Victoria Williams became the 16th Gamecock selection to CoSIDA’s Academic All-District team with her pick last year.
- Off the 2015 roster with 22 students, 19 Gamecocks earned SEC Academic Honor Roll nods last year.
- Sophomore Jordyn Augustus is one of 15 South Carolina students on the Columbia campus selected to participate in the Carolina Leadership Initiative for this academic year.
- Many Gamecocks have been on mission trips during their summers, including Augustus, Effie Manahan and Macey Webb.
- The softball team has won the department’s Community Outreach Team of the Year twice under Bev Smith in 2011 and 2013.
- Gamecock signees Mackenzie Boesel, Cayla Drotar and Alexis Lindsey, during their official visit this fall, joined the team and community helping Columbia recover from the historic floods that devastated the Midlands in early October.
This Is How Tough 2015 Was (Especially in the SEC)
- The Gamecocks played 30 games against teams who made the 2015 NCAA Tournament, with SC going 13-17 in those games.
- The Gamecocks went 22-19 against teams with RPI marks in the top 100, including five wins over top-25 squads (Cal at 20, two vs. Tennessee at 9, two at Kentucky at 25).
- A total of 41 of the Gamecocks’ scheduled games came against teams that finished in the top 100 of the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index last year. Of those, 26 were against RPI top-50 teams.
- This year, South Carolina faced regular-season champs from the SEC (Florida), ACC (Florida State), American (UCF), Conference USA (Western Kentucky), Atlantic Sun (USC Upstate) and Big South (Longwood) as well as the tourney champs of the Sun Belt (South Alabama).
Awards Poured in for 2015 Gamecocks
- Alaynie Page became South Carolina’s first NFCA All-American in 16 years when she earned a first-team nod.
- She also garnered first-team All-SEC honors, while Tiara Duffy gained a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team in the utility spot.
- Page ranked as the only Gamecock on the NFCA All-Southeast Region team.
- Macey Webb gained a spot on the 2015 SEC Softball Community Service Team.
- Nickie Blue claimed the SEC Pitcher of the Week honor on March 16, 2015.