2018 Gamecock Softball Review
June 7, 2018
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The 2018 season for South Carolina softball will be remembered as a success, as the Gamecocks posted a 49-17 record on their way to the program’s second appearance in a super regional. Picked to finish 12th in the SEC Preseason Poll, Carolina finished with a 15-9 record in conference on its way to a third-place finish.
Carolina started the season with a 20-1 record, including the program’s best 20-game start in its history. During the stretch, Gamecock hitters batted .315 while outscoring opponents 134-25. In the circle, Cayla Drotar led the way with a 10-0 record to start the year to go along with her 1.24 ERA. As a staff Drotar, Dixie Raley and Kelsey Oh posted a 1.15 ERA with 95 strikeouts during the run.
In total, the Gamecocks finished with a 22-3 record before the start of SEC play. From there, it was on to Oxford, Miss., to open up conference action against the defending SEC Tournament Champions.
Picked to finish 12th, expectations for the Gamecocks around the conference were low heading into the three-game series. But Carolina didn’t listen, taking the series with wins on Friday and Saturday. The Gamecocks outscored the Rebels 12-6 on the weekend as Kenzi Maguire had as many RBI by herself as Ole Miss produced as a team. The Gamecock pitching staff shined with a 0.70 ERA while strikeout out as many batters as total hits allowed.
Next up on the conference slate was Tennessee, as the Gamecocks welcomed the No. 2 team in the nation to Columbia. The Gamecocks never backed down, as they swept the series thanks to walk-off victories on Friday and Saturday night before a commanding run-rule win on Sunday to close the set. The sweep was Carolina’s third over the Volunteers since the two teams started playing in 1997, while the series win was the first since 2015.
The Gamecocks kept the train rolling with their first win in College Station since 1990 in the Sunday game to salvage the series finale. After a 5-2 mid-week win over Georgia Southern that featured Oh’s immaculate inning (three strikeouts on nine pitches), Carolina was ready to return to SEC play to face a much-improved Arkansas squad.
Drotar came ready to play in the series, earning two wins with a 0.70 ERA to help lead the Gamecocks to a 2-1 series win over the Razorbacks. Facing two of the better pitchers in the conference made runs hard to produce, but Mackenzie Boesel fought through to bring home a Carolina-best three RBI on the weekend.
The Florida series could have stopped some teams, but not this group. Carolina responded with a perfect 6-0 record in the next two home SEC series against Missouri and Mississippi State. Kennedy Clark was almost unstoppable at the plate, batting .588 with four RBI and a stellar .611 on-base percentage. Alyssa VanDerveer was the RBI machine, posting a team-best 10 during the run. As squad, the Gamecocks had a .995 fielding percentage with just one error and eight double plays turned.
The final stretch of the season is when teams are supposed to being playing their best ball and that’s exactly what Carolina did. The team finished the regular season’s final 10 games with an 8-2 record while outscoring opponents 71-31. VanDerveer closed her final regular season with 20 RBI while Boesel was just off with 11. Clark shined, as well, with a .484 batting average and .529 on-base percentage to close the season.
In total, the Gamecocks finished the regular season with a 43-13 record and a 25-2 mark at home. At the plate Boesel led the squad in batting average (.366), runs (50), hits (63), doubles (16), RBI (45) and total bases (107). The defense posted an impressive .979 fielding percentage while the pitching staff closed with 247 strikeouts in contrast to just 128 walks.
The SEC Tournament was another opportunity to impress and the Gamecocks did just that. Carolina opened the tournament with wins over Mississippi State and Arkansas before eventually falling to Florida in the program’s first SEC Tournament Championship appearance since 2001.
Carolina was named the No. 9 seed in the NCAA Postseason Tournament the day after the conclusion of the SEC Tournament and was set to host UNCG, Liberty and Hofstra. The Gamecocks opened the regional with a win over UNCG before dropping a game to the Flames in the winner’s bracket game the following morning.
The Gamecocks were in more trouble later that night in an elimination game against Hofstra. Trailing 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jana Johns drew what would eventually be a huge walk to keep the game alive. Krystan White followed at the plate with her season and softball career on the line and delivered with a home run over the wall in left to give the Gamecocks a 5-4 win and send Carolina to the regional championship against Liberty.
Once in the regional championship, the Gamecocks needed to win twice and did just that to earn the program’s first regional championship win since 2007. Carolina outscored Liberty 7-0 in the Sunday games as Raley and Drotar allowed just seven hits on the afternoon with 12 strikeouts.
While the season ended with a sweep at the hands of Arizona State in the Tempe Super Regional, the season can only be described with one word: Success.
Team Season Records Broke
- Home runs (old record was set in 2015 with 60): 65
- RBI (old record was set in 2013 with 295): 309
- Hit by pitches (old record was set in 2013 with 60): 86
- Fielding percentage (old record was set in 1989 with .978): .979
- Double plays turned (old record was set in 2011 with 26): 31
Individual Season Records Broke
- Assists at third base (old record was set in 2000 by Sondra Hall with 133): Jana Johns, 151
- Fielding percentage at third base (old record was set in 1999 by Megan Donohoo with .966): Jana Johns, .978
Carolina Notes To Close
- The 49 wins are the most of the Beverly Smith era and the most since the Gamecocks won 49 in 1999. This was the 15th time in program history Carolina has won 40 or more games and the first time since 2003 the Gamecocks had done so.
- The 15 conference wins are also the most of the Beverly Smith era and the most since the Gamecocks won 18 in in 2003. This marks the seventh time in program history the Gamecocks have won 15 or more SEC games.
- In the Saturday game against No. 2 Tennessee 2,023 fans provided one of the best home atmospheres in the nation. The 2,023 attendance count is tied for the second-highest ever recorded at a Carolina softball game. The 40,209 total fans at home games this year marks a Carolina best in the program’s history.
- The Gamecocks were recognized four times throughout the season by the conference office. Jana Johns was named SEC Freshman of the Week twice (first time in program history a Gamecock has won FOTW twice), while Tiara Duffy and Kenzi Maguire were named SEC Player of the Week.
- Carolina had five players named to All-SEC Teams. Kenzi Maguire, Mackenzie Boesel and Alyssa VanDerveer were named to the All-SEC Second Team while Jana Johns and Kelsey Oh earned All-Freshmen Team honors. Johns was also named to the SEC All-Defensive Team. This marked the first time since 2015 the Gamecocks had first or second team honors and the first time since 2002 they’ve had three or more named. The five overall recognitions are the most since five in 1997.
- Three Gamecocks were named to All-Region Teams. Alyssa VanDerveer was named to the first team while Kenzi Maguire and Cayla Drotar earned spots on the second team. The three overall selections were the most for Carolina since 1999.
- Mackenzie Boesel was named to the 2018 Academic All-America Division I Softball Third Team. She is just the 10th Gamecock in program history to take Academic All-America honors and is the second under head coach Beverly Smith.
- Grand slam? No big deal. Carolina finished with five on the year (Tiara Duffy, Jana Johns, Alexis Lindsey, Alyssa VanDerveer and Mackenzie Boesel). In total, 10 different Gamecocks hit home runs on the year (19 of those came with two strikes).
- How good was home to the Gamecocks? Including the postseason Carolina finished with a 29-3 record. In those games, the Gamecocks outscored opponents 173-63 and posted an incredible .983 fielding percentage.
- While the Gamecocks had 10 or more hits 14 times on the year, opposing teams were able to do so just five times against the Carolina pitching staff.