March 24, 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
South Carolina Hits Road to Face No. 3/3 Auburn in Three-Game Series
- South Carolina hits the road in SEC play for the first time this year, and the draw is tough, facing No. 3/3 Auburn at Jane B. Moore Field on Easter weekend.
- All three games will be on SEC Network + on Watch ESPN, while Gametracker live stats will also be available at GamecocksOnline.com.
- Due to rain in the forecast for Sunday, the teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday at 3 and 6 p.m. EDT.
South Carolina’s Offense Producing Early
- South Carolina’s offense has been clicking early, and it starts with leadoff batters reaching base at a .468 clip.
- Only on three occasions have the Gamecocks not gotten the leadoff runner on more than once, in the Western Carolina win and in series-opening losses to No. 17/15 Kentucky and No. 12/12 Georgia.
- The Gamecocks lead the SEC with 46 HBPs this year, tied for the third most in a single season at SC.
- Twelve came in two games, as six Gamecocks were hit against UNC Greensboro (2/19) and Michigan State (3/5).
- The Gamecocks have struck out looking 19 times in 30 games, the lowest total in the league.
- South Carolina also has tallied 55 RBI in 87 chances with a runner on third and less than two outs.
- That .632 conversion rate is fourth in the league, behind Kentucky (.693), Tennessee (.684) and Auburn (.659).
- Leading that charge is the quartet of Alaynie Page (7-for-7), Krystan White (9-for-12), Kennedy Clark (8-for-10) and Ansley Ard (5-for-7).
South Carolina Team Notes
- South Carolina has scored two runs or less seven times, going 3-4 in those, with all four losses coming against ranked SEC foes (3 vs. No. 17/15 Kentucky, 1 vs. No. 12/12 Georgia).
- The three runs scored by the Gamecocks in the Kentucky series all were unearned.
- The Gamecocks posted a 10-game winning streak from Feb. 26-March 8, the second time under Beverly Smith and the fourth since the start of 1998 (others in 2002, 2009 & 2014).
- 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.
- The Gamecocks’ defense has been outstanding thus far, posting a .976 fielding percentage, which stands fourth in the SEC.
- 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.
- The Gamecocks started the season 9-1, the best start since the team went 12-1 to begin 2009.
Ard Advancing on All Fronts
- Senior outfielder Ansley Ard has become the Gameocks’ clutch hitter this season.
- Four times, she’s produced the game-winning hit: vs. Coastal Carolina, Western Carolina, the first game against Buffalo and in the second Georgia game.
- Her grand slam against the Bulls propeled the Gamecocks to the 7-4 win, while she tied game two with an RBI bunt single.
- She hit a walk-off home run against the Bulldogs on Sunday night on the SEC Network, two innings after starting the rally that tied the game with a hit.
- Those moments helped Ard capture the SEC Player of the Week as well as the College Sports Madness Field Player of the Week on March 21-22.
- For Ard, however, something bigger was when she learned she had made it into physical therapy school on the same day that she won the game vs. Coastal Carolina.
- She’s also quite proud of her one-inning appearance in the circle vs. Southern Utah on Feb. 26, picking up the win without allowing a run in her firsr pitching chance since high school.
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.
- Last season, Blue posted over 200 innings in the circle and an ERA under 2.00, one of two in the SEC to post such numbers (Lauren Haeger of Florida the other).
- She posted 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.
Clark Leading Gamecock Newcomers at the Plate
- Freshman outfielder Kennedy Clark has started every game, one of three Gamecocks to do that, and leads the team in on-base percentage (.482) while ranking second with four home runs.
- Clark tied the program record with two round-trippers in the Ohio win.
- She’s come through in big situations, including tallying a team-best 10 RBI with two outs.
- The freshman has driven home eight runners from third with less than two outs in 10 tries.
- She’s also advanced runners at a .631 clip (41-for-65).
- Clark shared SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the week of March 6 with Kentucky’s Abbey Cheek after hitting .588 with seven RBI, both team highs, in a 5-0 week.
Other Newcomer Contributions for South Carolina
- The other four newcomers to the 2016 Gamecocks have all made their presence known.
- Junior Jessica Elliott has gone 12-1, tied for fourth in the SEC in wins, with a 1.67 ERA in 25 appearances.
- Alexis Mack, a freshman who set Ohio high school’s all-time stolen base record, is second on the team in stolen bases (8) and runs scored (22).
- Mack has moved up runners at a .595 clip, hitting mainly in the No. 2 spot in her 21 starts.
- Freshman Kenzi Maguire has started 20 games at shortstop and leads the team with 10 HBPs, which is fourth in single-season history at South Carolina.
- 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 5-for-16 at the plate and has started behind the plate in seven Gamecock wins.
2016 Accolades and Accomplishments for Alaynie Page
- Senior Alaynie Page has already moved up on many career lists, found on page 8 of the notes.
- Notably, she’s three 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 reached base in all but three games (vs. Virginia Tech, 2/13, vs. SIUE, 3/8, vs. No. 17/15 Kentucky 3/11).
- Her two home runs against No. 12/12 Georgia on Sun., March 20, the third time in her career to post two round-trippers in a game, helped the Gamecocks take the 5-4 win.
- She provided all the offense in the Charleston Southern win, posting the first run with an RBI single while walking, moving to second on a sacrifice, taking third on a wild pitch before scoring the game-winner on a passed ball.
Snaer Starting 2016 Stronger
- Junior first baseman Kaylea Snaer leads the SEC with 14 doubles while hitting .348.
- The Rowland Heights, Calif., native is tied for 15th on the Gamecock single-season doubles charts.
- 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.
- She hit the game-winning home run in the eighth against No. 12/12 Georgia on Monday, March 21, clinching the series win.
- A year earlier, she ended a nine-inning contest with a single against No. 9/15 Tennessee, capturing the series for South Carolina.
- 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).
White Hits Her Way into Lineup
- Sophomore Krystan White has hit her way into the lineup this spring, starting with a career-best day against Winthrop.
- The Chesterfield, S.C., product went 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBI against the Eagles.
- She’s now drawn 18 starts and played at all four spots in the infield.
- She’s hit .421 with runners on base, .400 with runners in scoring position and has driven in nine runners from third with less than two outs in 12 tries.
South Carolina Softball Historical Record
- South Carolina has played 2,154 games in its softball history, going 1402-745-7 (.652) in its 41st season of sponsorship.
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 defending regular-season conference champs: Michigan (Big Ten), Longwood (Big South), SIUE (Ohio Valley) and USC Upstate (Atlantic Sun).
- Thirty-three games are set for Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field.
- Three former Gamecocks turned assistant coaches visited this spring: Chelsea Hawkins (UNC Greensboro), Kaela Jackson (Michigan State) and Chrissy Schoonmaker (Connecticut).
- Seven position player starters return for the Gamecocks from last year’s squad.
- Every major offensive category leader from 2015 returns for the Gamecocks, 14 of those by Alaynie Page.
- SC lost four seniors who combined to start 143 games, including every start at catcher and 57 of 60 starts in centerfield.
- 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 28.6 percent of the roster (six 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.
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.
- The Tigers enter the weekend at 27-4 and third in both major polls.
- Auburn is 3-3 in SEC play, falling at home in a series to No. 1/1 Florida before winning two of three at Mississippi State last weekend.
- The Tigers offense is formidible, ranking first in scoring in NCAA Division I (9.73) while standing fifth in both on-base (.470) and slugging (.583) percentages.
- Leading the way is Kasey Cooper, who ranks third in the country in on-base percentage (.603) and RBI (46) while hitting 12 doubles and nine homers, standing seventh in slugging (.966).
- Senior Jade Rhodes is tied with Cooper for the team lead in homers while standing second in RBI (39) and slugging percentage (.788).
- Senior Emily Carosone has been walked 24 times, posting seven homers and 26 RBI.
- Senior Tiffany Howard has the team’s second-best batting average (.445) and leads the team with four stolen bases.
- Sophomore Carlee Wallace has had half of her hits go for extra bases and while drawing 23 walks.
- The Tigers’ pitching staff has a 1.65 ERA, seventh in the country, and they do it as a group.
- Three pitchers have around 45 innings of work, with two posting 1.20 ERAs in freshman Makayla Martin and sophomore Kaylee Carlson.
- Martin (42 Ks, 15 BBs) and Carlson (43 K, 17 BBs) have similar strikeout-to-walk ratios, while Carlson’s given up more extra-base hits (6 to 2).
- Senior Marcy Harper has started 11 games and posted a 3.09 ERA in 45.1 innings, fanning 36 and walking 20.
- Seniors Lexi Davis (1.58 ERA, 31 innings) and Rachael Walters (0.99 ERA, 28.1 innings) should see time in the circle this weeked as well.
Auburn and South Carolina Against Common Foes
- Both teams downed USF in February, South Carolina winning at the Bulls’ home field 7-1 and Auburn taking a 6-0 win in Clearwater, Fla.
Ties Between South Carolina and Auburn
- Auburn’s Makayla Martin and Carlee Wallace played with the same SoCal A’s group that gave South Carolina Kennedy Clark, Hayley Copeland and Kaylea Snaer.
- Auburn junior Kacey Cooper and sophomore Whitney Jordan played on the TN Fury travel-ball team, the same group that Gamecock junior Effie Manahan and freshman Hull spent time with in their youth careers.
- Both Auburn’s Haley Fagan and South Carolina’s Kenzi Maguire played with Team North Florida.
SC History vs. the Tigers
- Auburn leads the series 29-25, including a 13-11 advantage in games in Auburn.
The Last Series – Auburn at South Carolina – May 2-4, 2014
- South Carolina claimed a series win over No. 20 Auburn, taking the final two games.
- Auburn won game one 5-3 (8) on Austyn West’s two-out, two-RBI single in the first extra frame.
- The Gamecocks took game two 7-4, thanks in part to Chelsea Hawkins’ grand slam.
- Alaynie Page had a hit, and Lauren Masters walked twice in the Saturday win.
- Sunday’s win came in 4-2 fashion, with Julie Sarratt going five innings and Nickie Blue tossing the final two.
- The teams met three days later in the opening round of the SEC Tournament at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field, with the Tigers taking a 7-5 win.
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.
Gamecock Pitching Making Strides
- Beverly Smith’s pupils in the circle have 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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
Some of Last Year’s Milestones in SEC Play
- For the second-consecutive year, South Carolina won at least half of its SEC three-game series, marking the seventh time it’s happened since the advent of the three-game series in 2001 (2001-03, `05, `07, `14).
- The five series wins in 2015 was last done in 2005, when the team took six of eight three-game sets.
- That included series wins over No. 9 Tennessee and No. 14 Kentucky.
- The victories at Kentucky marked the first SEC series victory for the Gamecocks on the road at a ranked team.
- South Carolina won its final four series, including two road series triumphs at Kentucky and Mississippi.
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 has reached base 61.5 percent of the time she’s led off an inning.
- Only on three occasions has 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.