Coming into the week, the #16 Gamecocks (10-3) had three opponents coming into Columbia for five games, and would finish the week 4-1.
Breathe. Focus. Attack. Finish. #OurSTATEment pic.twitter.com/I8wuH9nEbS— Gamecock Softball (@GamecockSoftbll) March 2, 2020
Still down Senior Cayla Drotar and Junior Kelsey Oh, the Gamecocks would roll into their fourth and final non-conference tournament with their four remaining pitchers in sophomores Karly Heath and Rachel Vaughn, along with freshmen Karsen Ochs and Bailey Betenbaugh.
USC vs. Georgia Southern
Game one of the week featured the Georgia Southern Eagles versus the Gamecocks, and would be a game that would come down to the wire and force the Gamecocks to use three pitchers in one game.
Good defense helps out good pitching. #OurSTATEment pic.twitter.com/FMpbJSq9sd— Gamecock Softball (@GamecockSoftbll) February 27, 2020
Early on in the game, it seemed as if the Gamecocks had all the momentum and would have a short day at the office.
Pitcher Karly Heath would get the start and the win as she would go four full innings, giving up one hit for one run, four walks and would strike out six batters.
Freshman Karsen Ochs came in the game in the fifth to deal for the next 2.1 innings, giving up three hits for two runs, walking three and striking out three more.
Karsen would give up her two runs in the top of the seven before freshman Bailey Betenbaugh would come in to get a strikeout and a fly out to end the game and seal the win.
Betenbaugh would get her first collegiate save Tuesday night, as the Gamecocks would hold on to win 5-3 over the Eagles.
The Gamecocks would score all five of their runs in the first three innings, getting two in the first off of the Kenzi Maguire home run and a Katie Prebble fly out that would score Lauren Stewart.
The Gamecocks would score their remaining three runs in the third when Katie Prebble would again record RBIs off a two run home run and then Mackenzie Boesel would cap it off stealing home on a throwing error.
The 5-3 win would move the Gamecocks to 11-3 heading into the Garnet and Black Challenge.
USC vs. Troy
Game two of the week and the first of the Garnet and Black Challenge would have South Carolina taking on the Troy Trojans.
Today's threads bring the ladies in black BACK. #OurSTATEment pic.twitter.com/1XwGqvNmd5— Gamecock Softball (@GamecockSoftbll) February 29, 2020
In a game that would turn into a true pitchers duel, the Gamecocks would be held without a hit until the bottom of the fifth inning when Kenzie Maguire would single to score Fabian with one out.
That would be the only run scored for the Gamecocks, as they would be out hit six to two in the game and lose 2-1 after a homer that scored two would be given up in the top of the fifth.
The Trojans would hand the Gamecocks their first home loss of the season, as well as Pitcher Karsen Ochs her first loss of the season.
Ochs would pitch all seven innings giving up 6 hits and two earned runs as she would also strike out four batters.
USC vs. Charlotte
In game three of the week, the Gamecocks would bounce back after having their six game win streak broken by Troy and take a convincing 10-0 win over Charlotte in five innings.
.@JohnsJana is good. #OurSTATEment pic.twitter.com/abaPDXKRIt— Gamecock Softball (@GamecockSoftbll) March 1, 2020
Heath would pick up her second win of the week, moving to 3-0 on the season after pitching all five innings, striking out eight, and only issuing four walks and one hit.
Heath moves to 11-0 on her Gamecock career with the win.
The bats came alive this game, as the Gamecocks would score ten runs in four innings to help to seal the run rule victory.
USC would score six of their runs via three home runs from Katie Prebble, Haley Simpson and Kenzi Maguire.
Prebble would lead the group in RBIs at four, as she would also get another on a ground out later in the game to score her fourth.
Maguire would come in second with three as she would follow up her homerun with a single in the fourth to score one more RBI.
The last two RBIs would come off of a Lauren Stewart single in the first and a Madison Owens double in the second.
The 10-0 win in five moved the Gamecocks to 12-4 and would cap off day one of the Garnet and Black Challenge.
USC vs. Charlotte
Day two of the Challenge started with round two of South Carolina versus Charlotte and just like de’javu, the Gamecocks would score ten runs for the second straight game but this time the 49ners would make it competitive and score seven runs of their own.
FINAL: Back in 30. #OurSTATEment pic.twitter.com/1yaf09AwsX— Gamecock Softball (@GamecockSoftbll) March 1, 2020
Karly Heath would pick up her fourth win of the season after pitching four full innings and only allowing two runs on three hits.
She collected seven strikeouts and didn’t walk any batters she faced.
Karsen Ochs would pick up her first collegiate save pitching the last three innings and striking out four batters.
Ochs would give up five runs on four hits but would not relinquish the lead and helped seal the Gamecock’s thirteenth win of the season.
The scoring would start early as they would get a two RBI double from sophomore Kassidy Krupit in the first followed by a Madison Owens single to score Krupit.
The Gamecocks would extend their 3-0 lead to 5-0 in the second thanks to a Jana Johns RBI triple and a Mackenzie Boesel RBI ground out.
The 49ers would try to cut into the lead in the fourth with a pair of RBI singles, but the Gamecocks would get both runs back in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a Boesel single and a RBI scoring groundout from the freshman Hannah Kumiyama to make it 7-2.
Charlotte would close the gap quickly in the 5th after a walk and two hits would be followed by a 49ers grand slam to make the game 7-6.
Ochs would recover quickly forcing a pop out and strike out to end the inning.
The bottom of the fifth would see the Gamecocks get three of the four runs back after two walks would be followed by a two out three run homer run from Katie Prebble to move the game to 10-6.
The 49ners would get their last run of the game in the top of the seventh off a wild pitch, but Ochs would finish the game off with a fly out and the Gamecocks would take the game 10-7.
USC vs. Troy
The last game of the week gave the Gamecocks a chance to get revenge on the Troy Trojans for blemishing their home record the day before.
Just like it’s predecessor, this game turned out to be another pitchers duel and Bailey Betenbaugh was up for the challenge as she held the Trojans without a hit till the fourth inning.
Bailey would surrender a single, a sac bunt, and then a two run home run before she would end the inning with a strikeout and a ground out.
Not to be outdone, the Gamecocks would score two runs of their own via their own two run bomb to even the score.
The two teams would then exchange one hit each through the next 2.5 innings before the Gamecocks would take the game in the bottom of the seventh walkoff style.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, freshman Hannah Kumiyama would follow a single and walk with a two out home run that landed somewhere in Williams Brice to send the Gamecocks home with the 5-2 victory.
FINAL: WALK IT OFF @HKumiyama!!!— Gamecock Softball (@GamecockSoftbll) March 1, 2020
The freshman comes in with two outs to pinch hit and hits a home run all the way to @GamecockFB! #OurSTATEment pic.twitter.com/N4awWM0P6Q
Pitcher Bailey Betenbaugh would pick up the win after throwing a complete game performance, allowing just four hits and two runs, while walking four batters and striking out four more.
With the win, the Gamecocks finished the week 14-4 and Betenbaugh moves to 2-0 as a starting pitcher.
This week saw a big step in the maturation of the young pitching group as they would be tested and pushed to their limits by unexpected competition from the Troy Trojans but together they overcame it and finished strong.
Tough games like this will be important lessons for this young group as they head to Athens next weekend to open SEC play against a very good and highly ranked Georgia team.
The Gamecocks will need to fire on all cylinders this weekend to get their first SEC series win of the season as every pitcher on the roster will be facing essentially their first taste of SEC action in their young careers.
The bats will have to come out hot as well and the performance of junior Katie Prebble this week will be something to build on, as she went 3-11 (.273) at the plate for ten RBIs and three home runs accounting for ten of the thirty one runs scored this week (32.3%).
If the bats can stay hot and the Gamecocks can continue to pitch as skillfully as they have, then the Gamecocks have all that they need to win their first series this weekend.
This weekend should be a very competitive and fun one and if we are still without Drotar and Oh, Gamecock Nation should have a lot of faith that these girls and Coach Beverly Smith can get the job done anyway.
As Coach Tanner always says “Win Anyway” and I truly believe that this group most certainly will.
Tune in to catch the games at 6:00, 2:00, and 2:00 Friday through Sunday on SEC Network + .