Ard, Lawrence both go yard to lead offense in win over Bulldogs
The Gamecock softball team took care of business Wednesday night, making quick work of the Bulldogs from South Carolina State University in a 5-1 result, highlighted by home runs from sophomore Ansley Ard and junior Olivia Lawrence.
Only their second homers of the year, the girls were rather unlikely heroines on the night, much to the delight of head coach Beverly Smith who spoke about the necessity of versatility on the team.
“I think it’s important because you come into the season, people scout you and know what hitters they’re going to be careful with so you need different players to step up in every ballgame and I think it was big that both Olivia and Ansley stepped up tonight,” Smith said.
“We have a lot of depth,” Ard added. “Honestly, you can pull any of us off the bench and we’re going to produce. It’s amazing how strong our team is.”
Asked about the two-run blast she had in the bottom of the third, Ard beamed.
“It felt good,” Ard said, smiling. “I made a really good adjustment. My first at-bat, she started throwing me inside, so the second one I backed off the plate. It felt really good.”
On top of her heroics at the plate, Ard also had a spectacular diving catch out in the field during the fifth inning.
Also scoring on the day were Ashlyn Masters, who crossed home plate twice, and Dana Hathorn, who added another run.
Lakyn Shull was able to notch her first win on the season, pitching five strong innings with only four hits and one earned run allowed. Nikki Blue came on in relief, throwing two perfect innings, facing six batters and recording six strikeouts. Coach Smith was particularly pleased with Shull’s effort.
“This was a great start for Lakyn,” Smith said. “She won the first five for us and I thought she did a nice job of keeping their batters off balance. She was really working her screwball in on the hitters, getting a lot of foul balls and getting groundouts so she did a nice job.”
Smith also remarked on how beneficial is it to have a pitcher like Nickie Blue come in and just completely shut down an opponent.
“I think the nice thing about Nickie is that she has so many different speeds, she really throws the ball hard. She comes in after Lakyn or Julie and it’s such a change of speed and it’s great for us. I’m glad I see her throwing strikes though. She’s really attacking the strike zone and looking better and better every game. It’s exciting to watch.”
Not in uniform tonight was starting first baseman Kaylea Snaer, who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury sustained in last Saturday’s game against LSU. Coach Smith did, however, seem vaguely optimistic about her return before the season’s end.
“She has a dislocated elbow but we’re hoping her rehab goes well and we’ll see her during the postseason,” Smith said.
The Gamecocks host Longwood in a two-game series this Friday and Saturday starting at 6 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday.