Jessica Wood, Jessica Wood

Gamecocks softball team finishes opening weekend on high note

The South Carolina softball team traveled down to Tampa, Florida, over the weekend to open up the 2016 season in the University of South Florida Wilson DeMarini Tournament. The Gamecocks finished the tournament going 3-1 over the weekend.

The season opener for South Carolina softball was Friday morning as the Gamecocks took on the No. 2 Wolverines. The runner-ups in last year’s national championship took care of business — the Michigan Wolverines defeated the Gamecocks 15-3 in five innings. The Wolverines offense was on all cylinders as they scored in each inning, highlighted by a two-run home run in the second inning by Aidan Faulk and a Sierra Romero grand slam in the fourth.

South Carolina got on the board in the second as freshman shortstop Kenzi Maguire doubled to start the inning and crossed the plate after a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. The Gamecocks also got on the board in the fourth as senior left fielder Alaynie Paige brought in a run with a sacrifice fly. The Gamecocks final run came in the fifth as senior centerfielder Ansley Ard hit a RBI single. Maguire and Ard played well for the Gamecocks in the season opener, as they both went 3-3 at the plate.

The Gamecocks returned to action that afternoon to face the tournament host South Florida. South Carolina got out to an early lead as junior designated player Victoria Williams hit a two-run home run to right center. After USF made it a one-run game in the second, the Gamecocks ran away with the game, scoring two runs in the fourth, one run in the fifth and two runs in the sixth. Junior pitcher Jessica Elliott picked up the win in her four-inning performance with three strikeouts and only giving up one run and four hits. Junior Nickie Blue finished it off with three shutout innings to get her first save of the season.

Saturday morning, the Gamecocks faced the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Carolina pitching, along with key offensive contributors, were able to shut out the Hokies 6-0. Similar to the game against USF, the Gamecocks got out to an early lead in the first. Freshman right fielder Kennedy Clark hit her first career home run, and later in the inning, junior first baseman Kaylea Snaer hit an RBI double to make it a 2-0 lead. Snaer hit another double in the third, bringing home two runs for the Gamecocks. South Carolina would later add one in the fifth and one in the sixth. The combination of Elliott and Blue held the Hokies to only four hits, as Elliott picked up her second win and Blue her second save.

The Gamecocks faced Illinois State on Sunday to close out their trip to Tampa for the opening weekend tournament. After leaving the bases loaded twice in the first two innings, the Gamecocks were able to get on the scoreboard first with the help of senior All-American left fielder Alaynie Paige’s first home run of the season to right center field for two runs. South Carolina added to their lead in the sixth, as Kenzi Maguire hit an RBI single. Nickie Blue got the start for the Gamecocks and only allowed two hits in her five-inning appearance. Jessica Elliott came in to finish the job by shutting out the Redbirds for two innings and picking up her first save.

The Gamecocks return to action Wednesday afternoon as they host North Carolina at 1 p.m. at the Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field. The Gamecocks then look to host the Carolina Classic this weekend as UNC Greensboro, Ohio, Longwood and Winthrop come to town.

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