Gamecock softball head coach Beverly Smith and players Alyssa VanDerveer and Jordyn Augustus met with media Jan. 25 to discuss the 2018 season. The Gamecocks finished the 2017 season 34-25 with a trip to the regional final of the NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks were record setters last season by finishing with their highest ranking in school history and their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Overall, Smith and her team are excited to achieve even more than last year.
Smith opened the press conference by hitting key points of emphasis and excitement for the 2018 Gamecock softball program.
"The 2018 team, I think, is poised to do even better than [last year]. So this is going to be an exciting season for us. I think we return a lot of our offense. Offensively, we've added a new hitting coach who's come in and done a great job, I think established an offensive philosophy that our team has really bought into," she said.
Mackenzie Boesel is a player that Smith is excited about on the offensive front. Boesel led all Gamecocks last year in batting average, hits, runs, triples, home runs and RBIs — all as a freshman. If anybody is poised for another breakout season, it's Boesel.
Defensively, Smith is even more confident in her team.
"This will be the best defensive team that we have fielded since ... since I've been at South Carolina. It's gonna be an exciting team to watch on defense," Smith said.
Kenzi Maguire is a player Smith sees as the anchor for the defense. Maguire is coming off a redshirt after injuring herself last season. She returns as the starting shortstop for the Gamecocks, a position that requires speed and quick reflexes. Smith noted Maguire's speed, saying, "You guys [media] will be excited to watch her get out. She gets rid of the ball faster than anybody I've seen."
The only question mark facing the Gamecocks this season is in the circle. The Gamecocks have a trio of pitchers, all of whom are somewhat inexperienced players. Cayla Drotar is a sophomore who was 7-4 last year with a 3.53 ERA, Dixie Raley is a junior transfer from Georgia Southern and Kelsey Oh is a freshman. If the Gamecocks can develop a strong rotation between these three, this team could be poised to win a lot of games in 2018.
The Gamecocks open the 2018 season with a trip to the Felsberg Invitational at Florida International in Miami, Florida. They open the day with East Carolina at 11:15 a.m. and finish the day against Hofstra at 3:45 p.m.