Softball team swept by No. 4 Alabama
South Carolina’s softball team couldn’t give its stadium the inauguration it was hoping for.
The Gamecocks (16-9, 0-3 SEC) made a late comeback attempt but fell to No. 4 Alabama for the third straight time Sunday afternoon, losing 7-6 in the newly opened Beckham Field.
“We talk a lot about being relentless competitors, and that’s what I want to see from my team for all seven innings, is them never giving up and fighting the whole game,” coach Beverly Smith said.
With USC trailing by five runs, junior right fielder Chelsea Hawkins started off the bottom of the sixth inning with a home run. Hawkins now leads the Gamecocks with six homers on the season.
After a single and two doubles drove in two more runs, the Gamecocks loaded the bases with two outs on a walk and a hit-by-pitch. But sophomore center fielder Kristen Struett grounded out to end the inning.
In the seventh and final inning, USC scored a run on an RBI single and brought the winning run to the plate with one runner on base and two outs. But sophomore pinch hitter Olivia Lawrence struck out to end the game.
“It’s good to know that we can fight back against a top-five team,” senior shortstop Samie Garcia said. “We know that we can keep up with a top-notch team, and that’s good.”
Garcia leads the Gamecocks in batting average this season. She had three hits and a walk in four trips to the plate Saturday and added two hits Sunday. Smith called her the team’s spark plug.
“It’s my job to get on base any way I can and to have quality at-bats every time I go up,” Garcia said.
South Carolina took a lead in the first inning on an RBI single by junior second baseman Dana Hathorn. In the third, Struett singled in USC’s second run.
But Alabama (26-3, 4-2) answered by scoring four times in the top of the fourth. South Carolina starter Audrey Broyles left the game with one out and the bases loaded. The redshirt senior allowed three hits but no runs in the first three innings of the game.
The Crimson Tide hit into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the fourth, but a single and an error each resulted in two runs scored. Alabama scored three times in the top of the fifth inning.
The Gamecocks lost the first game of the series 6-4 Friday. In Saturday’s matchup, they couldn’t hold a two-run lead, falling 5-3 when Alabama scored four unanswered runs. Garcia said it was “definitely character-building” for South Carolina to have such a challenging series against the defending national champion.
South Carolina played before a sellout crowd in each of the first three games at Beckham Field. Pregame festivities included a ceremonial first pitch by women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley on Saturday and football coach Steve Spurrier on Sunday.
Garcia said it was “awesome” for the team to finally have its own space to play after practicing at a local high school and sharing space with the track team during the first four weeks of its season.
“Historic, really, is the way to talk about it,” Smith said. “I think what it means is a new start for Carolina softball.”