The South Carolina softball team's losing streak extended to five games after being swept by No. 4 Alabama this weekend. Despite having a winning record, the Gamecocks have struggled against SEC competition, moving to (2-7) this season.
The Gamecocks started the series with a heartbreaking 7-5 loss on Friday evening.
South Carolina's offense came to life first, scoring five runs in the first three innings.
"I was really pleased with our offense," South Carolina head coach Beverly Smith said. "Montana Fouts is one of the premier pitchers in the country and I felt like our offense came out and really attacked."
Fifth-year outfielder Katie Prebble led the offense with two runs and two hits. Alongside Prebble, senior catcher Jordan Fabian, freshman catcher Olivia Cook and sophomore outfielder Aaliyah White contributed to the scoring.
Smith said she was pleased with the team's first-pitch strikes and aggressiveness on the bases against a quality team like Alabama.
Everything was going in South Carolina's favor until the top of the sixth. Alabama had the bases loaded with two outs on the board when sophomore utility player KJ Haney hit a grand slam. This allowed the Tide to take lead and momentum shifted.
"I thought we had some really good innings, but we've got to play seven," Smith said.
In the final inning, the Crimson Tide's graduate infielder Kaylee Tow hit a home run to add to their lead. It was too late in the game for the Gamecocks to re-group and fight their way back.
Offensively, South Carolina had no answers for Alabama en route to a 10-2 defeat on Saturday afternoon.
Junior right-handed pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl tossed her third complete game of the season, as she gave up two runs and struck out four.
"We know, coming into this series, Alabama has a talented pitching staff, and I thought Kilfoyl did a great job against us today," Smith said.
The Gamecocks wouldn't get their first hit until the fourth inning when sophomore third baseman Riley Blampied drove in a pair of runners on an RBI double.
"(Alabama's) going to be good, but we've gotta put the ball in play more for our pitchers to keep them in the game and get our job done," Blampied said.
In the field, South Carolina made three defensive errors, which allowed the Crimson Tide to score four unearned runs.
“I think it’s important for us to win ballgames to play clean,” Smith said. “Today, the free bases, whether it’d be with errors or walks, hurt us.”
Once junior right-handed pitcher Karsen Ochs departed from the game in the second inning, the Gamecock bullpen struggled, as it gave up eight runs and seven walks.
"I expect more from our pitching staff," Smith said. "I think we're more talented than we showed, and I think, like I said, I thought it was the free bases that hurt us."
South Carolina’s pitching and defense played a key factor in the team's 6-1 loss on Sunday.
Junior right-handed pitcher Bailey Betenbaugh started on the mound but wasn't able to complete the inning. Betenbaugh allowed three runs off of three hits for Alabama with no strikeouts. Alabama scored half of their runs during the first inning.
“You can't give up that many runs, and with someone like Montana Fouts on the mound,” Smith said. “She's got probably under a 2.00 ERA.”
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Leah Powell came in to finish the first inning for the Gamecocks. Powell pitched 3.2 innings, allowing two runs with only one strikeout.
Alabama’s offense proved to be too much for South Carolina with 13 hits and only three strikeouts combined in Sunday's game.
“This wasn't our best weekend,” Smith said “I think if we are going to be successful in the league, we’ve got to play clean, and we talked about one of our goals for the weekend was no free bases and we weren't able to accomplish that”
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Skylar Trahan came in in the fifth inning to close the game for the Gamecocks. She pitched two strikeouts, the most for South Carolina today and allowed only one run off of three hits.
The Gamecocks were only able to score one run in the fourth inning off tough senior right-handed pitcher Fouts. Ultimately, Alabama and their offense showed beyond doubt to be one step ahead of South Carolina.
South Carolina will begin a four-game road trip when it travels to play Clemson on Wednesday night. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. and can be viewed on the ACC Network.