The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina softball sweeps exhibition doubleheader at home

The South Carolina softball team continued its undefeated run with two exhibition wins over USC Aiken and Georgia Southern Sunday at Beckham Field. The Gamecocks scored victories in both games beating the Pacers 7-0 and the Eagles 3-1. Photos captured by Joseph Anderson | The Daily Gamecock.

After opening its preseason with a 4-0 victory on the road against Georgia Tech, the South Carolina softball team continued its undefeated run on Sunday at Beckham Field with two exhibition wins over USC Aiken and Georgia Southern.

Pitching played a large role in both victories, as the Gamecocks' pitchers held their opponents to only four hits and one run over a combined 14 innings.

Game one

Experienced pitching and hitting led South Carolina to shut out USC Aiken, 7-0, in game one of the weekend's exhibition doubleheader. From the first pitch at noon to the final out at 2:01 p.m., the Gamecocks dominated the Pacers at the plate, in the circle and on the field.

Fifth-year catcher Jordan Fabian got the Gamecocks' bats going early. Fabian tripled in her first at-bat and hit a home run in her second, scoring the first two runs for South Carolina.

"She naturally leads this team by just the way she handles her business, the way she comes to work every day. So she's really a pleasure to coach, but I think she's a great example for all the young players we have in the dugout," head coach Beverly Smith said.

Another fifth-year player, starting pitcher Rachel Vaughan, was in the circle for the Gamecocks in the first two innings and established a strong start for South Carolina by giving up no hits or walks through seven batters.

Vaughan set a great example for relief pitchers, junior Skylar Trahan and freshman Jori Heard. Heard earned her first strikeout as a Gamecock against the first batter she faced on the day. 

Senior pitcher Bailey Betenbaugh used her experience to close out the game for the Gamecocks. She secured the final three outs in the top of the seventh inning. 

For the Pacers, it was a story of stamina. Starting pitcher Lakyn Phillips lasted through five innings and accumulated five strikeouts. Phillips was replaced prior to the bottom of the sixth inning by reliever Payton Baker. 

Despite encouragement from the Pacers dugout, it was not enough to get past the Gamecocks. Aiken had three fielding errors and only two hits throughout the game. 

Both teams expressed strong command in the circle, with all six pitchers only giving up a combined three walks.

Game two

The Gamecocks clinched the doubleheader sweep in a 3-1 victory over Georgia Southern. Even though South Carolina's bats were unable to come to life as they had in the first game, the pitching staff gave the team the advantage in what was a close matchup throughout.

"I think our pitchers combined for a very nice outing today, and I think we're going to be at our best when everybody handles their portion of the game," Smith said. "That's something else that we're trying is just how to manage this large staff, and everybody has come out and handled their innings very well."

After junior outfielder Aaliyah White gave the Gamecocks an early lead with an RBI single in the bottom of the first, senior pitchers Karsen Ochs and Donnie Gobourne pitched clean games to keep the home team ahead. The two struck out four batters and did not allow a hit over four combined innings.

The Eagles found themselves back in the game after senior utility player Sam Vinsor homered to left field to tie the score at one run apiece. Vinsor was the first batter junior pitcher Leah Powell faced, but she quickly recovered and pitched a scoreless 2.2 innings from that point onward, striking out four more batters in the process. 

Betenbaugh was called upon to record the final out of the game and did so in emphatic fashion, striking out junior outfielder Madi Banks to end the game.

Smith said she was also impressed with the play of two of her freshman, who helped contribute to what was the game-winning run for the Gamecocks.

"What I was really proud of is that we put in freshman (outfielder) Kyye Ricks, who got the bunt down and really put some pressure on their defense with her speed," Smith said. "It was a runner at second, no outs, and it was a sac bunt situation, and (freshman catcher) Hannah Hawley put that bunt down like a professional."

Hawley's bunt advanced Ricks to third base, putting her in position to score on a sacrifice fly by sophomore infielder Brooke Blankenship to retake the lead 2-1 in the fifth inning. A string of doubles in the bottom of the seventh by junior infielder Riley Blampied and senior outfielder Hannah Kumiyama helped South Carolina cement the 3-1 victory.

What's next

South Carolina returns to preseason action at home against USC Beaufort on Friday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m.


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