South Carolina Opens 2017 Campaign by Hosting Carolina Classic
Feb. 9, 2017
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Strength of SEC Softball is a Point of Pride for Gamecocks
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Softball Alumni and Military Veterans Raise Awareness for Wounded Heroes
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Study Abroad Provides Unique Opportunities for Gamecock Softball Duo
Kaylea Snaer – 2016 NCAA Division I Doubles Leader
Gamecock Freshmen Build Connection before Columbia
Unique Recruiting Trip Impacts Future Gamecocks
Accountability Program for Gamecock Softball
Augustus Honing Leadership Skills
20-Year Anniversary of the First SEC Champs
South Carolina Opens 2017 Campaign by Hosting Carolina Classic
The South Carolina Gamecocks, vying to continue their NCAA Tournament streak to five seasons, open their 2017 season at home in the Carolina Classic, an 11-game event over Feb. 10-12.
The Gamecocks start their season on Friday at 3 p.m. against Ohio before taking on Presbyterian in the day’s final game.
Saturday’s docket sees South Carolina play the game’s third contest against defending Big South champs Longwood. The Gamecocks wrap the weekend’s action with games against Presbyterian (12:30 p.m.) and Charlotte (3 p.m.) on Sunday.
Every South Carolina game will be broadcast on SEC Network + on Watch ESPN, while Gametracker live stats will be available for all 11 games at GamecocksOnline.com.
If the Gamecocks sweep through the weekend, they will give Beverly Smith her 200th win as a head coach.
Leading the Gamecocks’ 14 returners is the senior pitching duo Nickie Blue and Jessica Elliott.
The duo combined for all 61 starts, 390.1 innings, 246 strikeouts, 37 wins and all eight saves.
Six position player starters return for the Gamecocks from last year’s squad.
South Carolina lost five students who combined to start 215 games, including a majority of starts at catcher, second base, left and center field.
The highest percentage lost in any offensive category is stolen bases at 75 percent, followed by triples at 66.7 and sacrifice hits at 50.
The Gamecocks return around 60 percent of its offense in most other categories, including 74.4 percent of their doubles to 71.7 percent of their home runs.
The top hitter from last year is back, senior Kaylea Snaer, as she led NCAA Division I in doubles and SC in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, RBI and sacrifice flies.
Six newcomers could play in 2017, three signees and three transfers.
Leading that contingent is former first-team All-Big Ten catcher Alyssa VanDerveer (Penn State), while high school All-Americans Mackenzie Boesel and Cayla Drotar both could be major contributors.
Also joining the team are a pair of award-winning outfielders: two-time 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Week Lauren Stewart (Purdue) and two-time NJCAA All-American Shannon Plese (Chattanooga State).
The sixth newcomer, freshman Alexis Lindsey, will likely miss the year to rehabilitate an injury.
The Gamecocks hail from 12 states this year, with the newcomers coming from California, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Nickie Blue and Hayley Copeland are the first Gamecock duo who are both over six-feet tall.
While both are Williams’ and seniors by class, Taylor and Victoria are not sisters.
The Schedule Has Never Been Tougher
The 2017 schedule is the toughest compiled to date by head coach Beverly Smith.
The Gamecocks are set to play 33 of their 56 regular-season games against teams who made the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina is scheduled to play at least one NCAA Tournament team each weekend except for one: the SEC trip to Mississippi State, who ended 2016 with a 39 RPI and was ineligible for postseason play (26-31 record).
On the docket are 15 games against Women’s College World Series teams and another three against last year’s top seed in the NCAA Tournament (and defending SEC champs), Florida, who lost in super regional play to Georgia.
A total of 46 of the Gamecocks’ scheduled games come against teams that finished in the top 100 of the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index last year. Of those, 42 are against the top 76 teams and 33 are versus the top 50.
The Gamecocks play four defending regular-season conference champs: Florida (SEC), Florida State (ACC), Longwood (Big South) and North Dakota State (Summit) as well as the Atlantic Sun (USC Upstate) and SEC (Auburn) Tournament champs from 2016.
Of the preseason top 25 in both major polls, the Gamecocks are slated to take on nine of them, including four of the top five and eight of the top 10 (seven in the NFCA poll).
Seven of those nine are in SEC play, accounting for 21 games.
South Carolina, who had 13 points in the NFCA/USA Today Preseason poll, also has five games against teams receiving votes in between the two polls.
South Carolina Softball Historical Record
South Carolina has played 2,185 games in its softball history, going 1416-762-7 (.650) in its 41st season of sponsorship.
Snaer Back to Threaten More Records
First baseman Kaylea Snaer ended 2016 with 27 doubles, leading the nation and tying for fourth in a single season in NCAA Division I history with five others.
Snaer earned a spot on the 2016 CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team, the 17th Gamecock to garner selection.
Six times, Snaer posted two doubles in a game.
However, Snaer’s biggest hit came in the seventh inning of the Gamecocks’ SEC Tournament win.
With two outs, two on and on an 0-2 count, Snaer hit her sixth homer of the year to tie the game against No. 17/15 Missouri, a game SC won an inning later on Taylor Williams’ pinch-hit homer.
Snaer also hit the game-winning home run in the eighth against No. 12/12 Georgia on Monday, March 21, clinching the series win.
She enters her senior year ranking first in SC history in doubles per game and walks per game and second in RBI per game.
Blue Starting to Climb Gamecock Pitching Charts
Senior Nickie Blue moved up on many career pitching charts in 2016, including into eighth on the innings pitched and wins charts and seventh on the strikeouts listing.
Blue became the fourth Gamecock pitcher in history with back-to-back 200-inning years, joining Angie Lear (1990-91), Darlene Gareis (3 years, 1992-94) and Megan Matthews (4 years, 1999-2002) on that list.
In 2015, 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).
After her drop ball produced ground outs at a 65 percent rate (506-269) in her first two years on campus, Blue used a rise more often in 2016 but still tallied a 57 percent (271-203) ground-out rate.
Blue’s next save ties her for the school record.
Gamecock Newcomers, Signees Have Loads of Accolades, Accomplishments
Many Gamecocks have won awards at South Carolina, but the high school accolades continue to raise the specter of Bev Smith’s recruiting classes.
This year’s freshman class has two high school All-Americans on it: Mackenzie Boesel and Cayla Drotar.
The team also added its third NJCAA All-American under Bev Smith, signing Shannon Plese out of Chattanooga State.
Plese follows in the footsteps of former Tigers Melissa Hendon and Kaela Jackson (herself a former NJCAA All-American) and joins 2015 NJCAA Pitcher of the Year Jessica Elliott on the roster.
Drotar also claimed the South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year award the past three seasons, and next year, two-time New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year Kelsey Oh will join them.
All the awards for the Gamecocks and the national notations for the 2018 signing class are on page four of the notes.
Meanwhile, Gamecock signee Alex Fulmer has racked up notoriety on the baseball diamond, playing for the last two years with the USA Baseball Women’s National Team.
She played on teams that won the 2015 Pan American Games gold medal as well as the consolation bracket of the 2016 World Baseball Softball Confederation World Cup.
Fulmer and Oh were joined by Jana Johns, Victoria Galvan and Alyssa Kumiyama in the 2018 signing class.
Clark Leading Gamecock Newcomers at the Plate
Outfielder Kennedy Clark started all but two games during her freshman campaign.
She ended the year second on the team in on-base percentage (.430), doubles (11) and walks (26)while tying for third with four home runs and standing third with 36 RBI.
That OBP is the best in South Carolina history for a freshman, topping Victoria Williams’ mark of .426 in 2014.
On those freshman listings, she ranked fourth in doubles (11) and doubles per game, tied for second in walks (26) and tied for fifth with RBI (36).
She’s also tied for second in walks per game and fourth in RBI per game, both joining Alaynie Page’s rookie campaign.
Clark tied the program record with two round-trippers in the Ohio win.
The freshman drove home 10 runners from third with less than two outs in 14 tries while also advancing runners at a .579 clip (70-for-121).
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 2016 Newcomer Contributions for South Carolina
Jessica Elliott started 36 games in the circle, tying for eighth in a single season at SC, while her 47 appearances tied for fourth.
Kenzi Maguire started 45 games at shortstop and led the team with 15 HBPs, second in a single season at South Carolina.
Maguire also made her mark in the field, tying for fourth in the Gamecocks’ SEC era in assists per game (2.04) and standing third on fielding percentage (.965).
Gamecocks Have a Rich NCAA Tournament History
South Carolina earned its 19th bid in the NCAA Tournament in 2016, the fourth straight under head coach Beverly Smith.
The Gamecocks are 37-41 in those trips, making three NCAA 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.
Last season’s regional was SC’s fourth trip to a regional in Tallahassee and the third-straight year the Gamecocks drove to Florida’s capital city.
Offensive Records Falling Regularly for Gamecocks under Smith
In head coach Beverly Smith’s first six years, the Gamecocks broke team offensive records 25 times (tracked on page 14 in these notes).
The 2016 team broke the HBP (85) mark and finished second in on-base percentage (.387), tied for second in doubles (82), third in walks per game (2.80), third in sacrifice flies (20) and fourth in walks (171).
Smith’s teams set the home run and slugging percentage records in four-straight seasons (2012-15) and the on-base percentage mark in three straight (2013-15).
While not a record, the Gamecocks have hit .291 over the past six seasons, 75 points higher than the year before Smith came to Columbia.
Gamecock Pitching Making Strides
Beverly Smith’s pupils in the circle improved greatly in her first six seasons.
The 2016 team posted a 2.82 ERA, the best mark for a Gamecock team since 2008.
The staff backed this by lowering its home runs allowed to 23, 20 less than the 2015 team’s total.
Gamecock pitching improved its strikeout-to-walk ratio in each year from 2013-15.
Nickie Blue, who led the nation in saves as a freshman, became the fourth Gamecock to post consecutive 200-inning seasons in 2015-16.
In 2015, she posted over 200 innings in the circle and an ERA under 2.00, one of two in the SEC to post such numbers (All-American Lauren Haeger of Florida the other).
Fielding Has Jumped Leaps and Bounds, Too
Beverly Smith’s teams have improved their fielding percentage in each of the last four years as well, coinciding with the team’s winning ascent.
The 2016 Gamecocks finished third in program history with a .972 fielding percentage, which ranked third in the SEC and 20th in NCAA Division I.
In the SEC era, 10 of the best fielding percentages in a single season in the position categories have been recorded by Smith’s players.
The preseason Mid-American Conference favorites, Ohio returns six starters from last year’s 37-23 squad.
All of the team’s pitching returns, led by NCAA Division I strikeouts champ Savannah Jo Dorsey.
The redshirt senior tossed 248.2 innings in 2016, fanning 336 while walking 88 to support a 1.72 ERA.
Foes hit just .164 against Dorsey, but they also managed to hit 29 home runs against her, and she hit 25 batters to go with the 88 free passes.
Junior Danielle Stiene produced as a solid No. 2 starter, posting a 2.29 ERA in 159 innings, striking out 152 while walking 60.
Stiene also helped in limited opportunities with the bat, hitting .325/.372/.550 in 40 at bats.
Ohio stole 103 bases last year as a team, ranking 27th in the country. Just 17 of those departed.
Back to lead the speedy group is redshirt junior infielder Taylor Saxton. She stole 40 bases in 48 tries while hitting a team-best .335.
Junior infielder Mikayla Cooper led the Bobcats with a .408 on-base percentage, .571 slugging percentage, 11 home runs and 39 RBI.
Senior catcher Madison Claytor ranked third in RBI (34) and second in doubles (9) and home runs (6) while drawing 29 walks and adding eight sacrifice hits.
Also back is senior first baseman Casie Hutchinson, who added a team-best 10 doubles and 37 RBI last year.
SC Series History vs. the Bobcats
The Gamecocks have won seven of eight meetings between the teams.
In meetings in Columbia, the Gamecocks are 5-1, only falling in 2014’s second game of the year.
The Blue Hose return seven starters from last year’s 25-28 squad and are picked to finish sixth in the Big South this year.
Megan Anderson is back to power the lineup, as she hit a team-best .342 with a .419 on-base percentage while also leading the way with 39 RBI.
Hope Rogers also returns after hitting a team-high 14 home runs and 35 RBI.
Jonnie Petree is the top returning threat on the bases, stealing 16 bags mostly as a pinch-runner.
Kelsie Sanchez ranked first on PC with 12 doubles and third in both homers (7) and RBI (21).
The Blue Hose have to find replacements for Erin Ruff and Kersten Legacki, who both hit eight doubles last year. Ruff also ranked second with a .411 on-base percentage and 15 stolen bases.
PC has to fill the void left by ace Sydney Seigler, who tossed half of the team’s innings a year ago with a 3.48 ERA.
Katie Brown shouldered much of the load with Seigler last spring, posting a 3.72 ERA with 51 K’s and 49 walks in 126 innings.
Head coach Britne Stubbs has brought in two Florida junior college pitchers to help her team: Kaylee Allen and Alex Cook.
Ties Between South Carolina and Presbyterian
SC Series History vs. the Blue Hose
The Gamecocks have won all five meetings against the Blue Hose in history.
The defending Big South champs return its entire pitching staff and six offensive starters from last year’s 40-20 team.
The league’s preseason favorite boasts of the league’s preseason pitcher of the year, Elizabeth McCarthy, who posted a 2.54 ERA in 193.1 innings of work last year.
However, Sydney Gay did a little better than her in some categories, posting a 1.93 ERA in 178 innings while going 20-8.
Both struck out just under a batter an inning and had similar strikeout-to-walk ratios near 2.4:1.
Three top bats depart for the Lancers, led by Emily Murphy, who led the team in most major offensive categories, including homers and doubles (12 each) and 51 RBI.
The second-best on-base percentage (.415) from last year returns in Glenn Walters, and she also led the team in runs (42) and stolen bases (18-21).
Walters also had nine homers and 10 doubles, both second on the team.
Returners Karleigh Donovan and Kelsey Sweeney both had seven homers and more than 25 RBI.
Ties Between South Carolina and Longwood
SC Series History vs. the Lancers
The Gamecocks are 8-3 overall against Longwood, including a 6-1 mark in games in Columbia.
Charlotte may boast of the most veteran team in NCAA Division I, losing one starting batter from last year’s 32-23 team.
Picked to finish ninth in Conference USA, the 49ers are led by junior Haley Pace, who topped the team in hits (61), doubles (11), home runs (9) and RBI (49) in 2016.
An unselfish team, Charlotte posted 62 sacrifice bunts a year ago, led by Grace Beatty and Kiersten Berrier’s 12 each.
The 49ers hope to benefit from a healthy Becca Shipper, a Florida transfer who hit .568/.661/.705 before an injury ended her season after 14 games.
Bailey Rhoney led the team with a .411 on-base percentage and hit eight doubles, second on the team.
Berrier also stole a team-best 17 bases, while Shipper had six in her 14 games.
Where the 49ers need help will be in the circle after the graduation of Lexi Betancourt (233.2 IP).
Haley Wiseman returns after posting a 3.09 ERA in 126.2 innings, striking out 154 while walking 77 last year.
Three freshmen are vying to help Wiseman: redshirts Lauren Riley and Jordan Pace alongside true freshman Alison Green.
Ties Between South Carolina and Charlotte
Charlotte junior Taylar Byrne and Gamecock sophomore Kennedy Clark both graduated from Ayala High School in Chino Hills, Calif.
SC Series History vs. the 49ers
Longtime regional rivals, the Gamecocks own a 38-5 advantage in the series, including a 21-3 mark in Columbia.
South Carolina has won the last nine, the streak starting with Smith’s arrival in 2011.
South Carolina Staff Has Top Credentials
Gamecock head coach Beverly Smith has been a part of 12 NCAA Tournament teams as a coach (eight at UNC, four at South Carolina).
Associate head coach Lisa Navas has been to six NCAA Tournaments as an assistant coach (four 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 Matt Stewart worked the past three years at Florida, serving as a manager for both of the Gators’ national title wins.
Gamecocks Off the Diamond
The Gamecocks post their third-highest team GPA in the past 10 years last spring (3.456).
Fourteen Gamecocks garnered NFCA Scholar-Athlete honors in 2015-16, the most under Beverly Smith.
Kaylea Snaer became the 17th Gamecock selected to CoSIDA’s Academic All-District team in 2016, a year after Victoria Williams made the squad.
Off the 2016 roster of 20 students, 17 Gamecocks earned SEC Academic Honor Roll nods.
Senior Macey Webb has been accepted to law school and wants to help women in need.
Junior Jordyn Augustus went through the University’s Carolina Leadership Initiative in 2015-16.
Snaer participated in the first SEC Corporate Career Tour this Dec. in Atlanta.
Gamecock freshmen Mackenzie Boesel, Cayla Drotar and Alexis Lindsey, during their official visit in the fall of 2015, joined the team and community helping Columbia recover from the historic floods that devastated the Midlands in October of 2015.
The softball team has won the department’s Community Outreach Team of the Year twice under Bev Smith in 2011 and 2013.
Former Gamecocks have played a big part in helping out the Louisville Slugger Warriors team made up of former military veterans.