South Carolina softball’s pitching staff could be something special this year, and a pair of newcomers are a big reason why. Senior Alana Vawter transferred from Stanford after earning All-America honors and leading the Cardinal to the Women’s College World Series last year, and freshman Sage Mardjetko (pictured at top of page), who was named the USA Today High School Sports Awards National Player of the Year last year, seem to have the right stuff to make things miserable for opposing hitters.
“I think my approach to this season is like what I’ve had for every other season,” said Vawter, who is pursuing a master’s in sport and entertainment management. “It’s about the overall experience. I really want to take in the new experiences and the new relationships and playing different teams.”
Mardjetko put up video game numbers at Lemont High School in Illinois after going 23-0 as a senior with a 0.00 ERA and a dozen no-hitters, including one in the state championship game for the second straight year. The duo has developed a great relationship, on and off the field.
“We work well together,” said Mardjetko, who is a bio-chemistry major and aspires to be a dentist. “She is a super-sweet person and so genuine. She is a great teammate who is always there for you. When you’re playing at this level in the SEC, you need someone you can count on.
“She tells me to trust my pitches through the zone. When you’re in high school, you can get away with hitters swinging at balls. She tells me that I have good pitches and that I’m here for a reason, so I should trust my stuff through the zone.”
“We push each other to be the best versions of ourselves.”
“Sage is awesome,” said Vawter, who noted the two had actually met previously when Mardjetko was on a recruiting trip to Stanford. “She is a breath of competitive fresh air. It’s what you need to have at this level. She is going to be super-successful, and I’m really excited to watch her grow. We’re going to be there for one another. We want to lead this team to great heights. She has all the tools.”
That being said, they’re still competitive with each other in practice.
“We have competitions in the bullpen,” Mardjetko said. “Coach Bev will double or nothing it when we have to run poles by saying, it’s a 3-2 pitch, and you have to throw a strike. I’ll look at Alana, and she’ll say, ‘I’m doing it.’ So, then I say, I’m doing it! It’s good competition. It keeps us getting better.”
“We push each other to be the best versions of ourselves,” Vawter said. “When you can rely on your training, it makes a difference in games.”
As the season approaches, both look forward to making an impression.
“I’m looking forward to SEC country and visiting colleges and playing teams that I’ve only heard about,” Vawter said. “Being able to play these teams in a best of three series and see who can edge out a 2-1 win or maybe get a sweep is going to be very exciting. I think we have a lot to look forward to as a team. I’m looking forward to seeing where we end up.”
“My mentality is to attack,” Mardjetko said. “‘Hold no prisoners’ is what one of my old coaches used to tell me. You’re nobody’s friend out there on the field. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing your best friend from grade school; on the field, they’re your enemy. That’s definitely how I’ve always pitched and how I want to continue to pitch.”
South Carolina Softball opens the 2024 season with the Carolina Classic at home February 9-11.