The South Carolina softball team took its regular season to new heights under strong leadership and key players during the 2018 season.
That success gave head coach Beverly Smith’s team the opportunity to be a top-four seed in the SEC Tournament, starting their play in the second round against Mississippi State on Thursday at 12 p.m.
ESPN Softball Analyst Amanda Scarborough, a former Texas A&M standout and one of the three broadcasters on the call for the second round game between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs, sees the strength within the SEC from all of the teams. Specifically for South Carolina, Scarborough has watched the Gamecocks blossom and grow into an even stronger team.
“With South Carolina, they just put everything together this year and they’ve gotten better every single year with Coach Smith for sure," Scarborough said in an interview with the Daily Gamecock. "But this year it just seems like that better is now like an extra step ahead. That is kind of like the next level of getting ahead.”
In Scarborough’s eyes, their biggest strengths and levels of improvement has come from all three areas of the game: hitting, defense and pitching. Scarborough noted that the Gamecocks three pitchers have been a huge part of the team's success this season.
“I think that all three of their pitchers, Kelsey Oh, Dixie Raley, Cayla Drotar, they just all work really well together and they all pull for each other," Scarborough said. "The best part about them physically is that they all give different looks to the hitter, so not only are they pulling for each other, but physically they compliment each other very well.”
A lot of credit is due to Smith for the powerhouse South Carolina has become. Scarborough believes that part of the development of the Gamecocks this season has been Smith’s ability to get her recruits in and mold them at an efficient rate.
In addition, Scarborough thinks that assistant coach Matt Lisle has been a great asset for South Carolina’s offense, which has been really clicking for them in all three areas. Just this season, the Gamecocks climbed up to an RPI of 11, after finishing with an RPI of 22 last year, shows how much this team has grown in the past year.
"They truly are a complete team and seem to be bought into their motto, solid team that believes in each other,' Scarborough said.
Their motto regarding hitting is “do damage,” which has proved true with every swing that they have taken. With this motto, the Gamecocks have found their confidence and built off of it to allow them to be currently ranked No.12 in the country going into the conference tournament.
“They are in full belief of that motto and full belief of themselves and in their preparation more than I have ever seen before,' Scarborough said. "And with that belief, doesn't just come great single at-bats that they individually have, but it has its collective group effort to have this confidence like even in the end of a game they’re losing, if they’re down, it never feels like they’re out because of that confidence and because of this mentality that they have. To me sticks out the most other than any other year.”
The Gamecocks have a chance on Thursday to continue to show their improvements as a team, while trying to progress through the tournament. This South Carolina team will hold tight to their 15 SEC wins this season, hoping to use some of that momentum to secure a win against the Bulldogs and advance to the semifinals.
South Carolina swept Mississippi State just a few weeks ago at home, but the postseason is a whole different ballgame.
Scarborough believes that the key for South Carolina to remain steady and continue its successful season is for the Gamecocks to continue what they've been doing all season.
“They’ve played so great this year to not let the postseason get them into a different feel or feel like they have to change anything," Scarborough said. "Don’t change a thing, keep doing what you’re doing, it’s been having success, just let that success that you’ve has already this year, feel you even more through the post season.”