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March 7, 2016

Tuesday’s Game Information

Date: March 8, 2016

First Pitch: 6 p.m.

Location: Columbia, S.C.

Stadium: Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field

Live Video: SEC Network +


Feature Stories

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

Gamecocks Tune up for SEC Opener with SIU Edwardsville on Tuesday at 6 PM

  • In its last game prior to opening Southeastern Conference action, South Carolina hosts SIU Edwardsville, last year’s Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champs, on Tuesday.
  • First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field. The game can be watched live on SEC Network + on Watch ESPN or can be followed via Gametracker live stats.

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 fourth-best percentage in the SEC for their leadoff batters getting on base at .553, behind only Georgia (.636), Auburn (.568) and Tennessee (.554).
  • Only once have the Gamecocks not gotten the leadoff runner on more than once, that in the Western Carolina win.
  • South Carolina also has tallied 47 RBI in 73 chances with a runner on third and less than two outs.
  • That .644 conversion rate is tied for fourth in the league with Georgia.
  • South Carolina has also struck out looking 15 times in 20 games, tied for the second-lowest total in the SEC with Missouri (behind Alabama’a 13).

South Carolina Team Notes

  • Gamecock Kennedy Clark shared SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the week of March 6 with Kentucky’s Abbey Cheek.
  • Clark hit .588 with seven RBI, both team highs, in a 5-0 week.
  • 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 .980 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 five 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 School®.
  • 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 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.
  • Blue tossed the first five innings of the no-hitter against Western Carolina on March 1, the first no-no for the Gamecocks since the second game of 2011.

Snaer on Fire

  • Junior first baseman Kaylea Snaer has started 2016 on a tear, tied for third in the SEC with nine doubles while hitting .379.
  • 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 11-0 with a 1.01 ERA in 17 appearances, striking out 47 while walking 29 in 62.1 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 (.566) and slugging (.724) 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 14 games at shortstop and leads the team with eight HBPs.
  • Alexis Mack, a freshman who set Ohio high school’s all-time stolen base record, is second on the team in stolen bases (4) and tied for second in runs scored (15).
  • Mack, Maguire and Clark, hitting 2-3-4 in the lineup, combined to go 15-for-23 in wins over UConn and Kennesaw State, scoring nine runs and driving in eight as a group.
  • Finally, Lex Hull is 3-for-11 at the plate and has started behind the plate in five 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.
  • The Gamecocks also play four regular-season conference champs from 2015: Michigan (Big Ten), Longwood (Big South), SIU-Edwardsville (Ohio Valley) and USC Upstate (Atlantic Sun).
  • 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.

Roster Notes

  • 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 2,144 games in its softball history, going 1396-741-7 (.653) in its 41st season of sponsorship.

Scouting SIU Edwardsville

  • The Cougars are 5-8 on the year, going 2-2 last weekend in an event at USC Upstate.
  • Five offensive starters return as well as No. 2 pitcher Baylee Douglass from last year’s Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champs.
  • The sophomore Douglass has improved on her freshman campaign, posting a 1.60 ERA in 48 innings, striking out 33 while walking eight.
  • Last season Douglass tallied a 2.21 ERA in 139.2 innings, striking out 149 and walking 41.
  • Sophomore transfer Ashley Koziol has a 2.75 ERA in 40.2 innings this season for SIUE.
  • Leading the returning starters is senior Jordan LaFave, after hitting .333 with 10 doubles and five home runs a year ago, third on the team in all three categories.
  • LaFave already has five doubles and ranks second on the team with eight RBI.
  • Sophomore Tess Eby has a team-best nine RBI, a year after plating 11 in 36 starts.
  • Junior Allison Smiley and freshman Alyssa Heren both have two home runs and seven RBI.
  • Sophomore Haley Adrian leads the Cougars with three stolen bases and a .350 batting average. Last season, Adrian ranked second on the team with 11 sacrifice hits.
  • The Cougars used small ball a lot last season, posting 75 sac bunts, topped by Smiley’s 14.
  • Smiley also ranked second on SIUE in 2015 with 34 RBI.
  • Also back is senior Rachel Keller, who has a .317 batting average this season and is one of five Cougars to start all 13 games.

Ties Between South Carolina and SIU Edwardsville

  • Cougar sophomore Haley Adrian 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.
  • SIUE junior Allison Smiley played with the same Southern Force group that produced Gamecock seniors Ansley Ard and Lauren Masters..

SC History vs. Ohio Valley Conference

  • The Gamecocks are 12-5 all-time against members of the Ohio Valley Conference, winning the last two meetings with league members Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee State in run-rule games.

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.

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 under 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.

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 2016 SEC Softball Community Service Team.
  • Nickie Blue claimed the SEC Pitcher of the Week honor on March 16, 2015.