South Carolina softball coach Joyce Compton had a unique idea to kick off the 2010 season. She wanted to invite all the state colleges to Columbia for a tournament format - the first Palmetto State Showdown.
There will be six other state teams joining the Gamecocks today to begin the season. There are five games today, five on Saturday and four to close out the round-robin session Sunday. Each team will play four games in three days. The tournament begins at 11 a.m. with USC slated to play College of Charleston at 5 p.m.
Furman, Winthrop, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina and USC Upstate will join those two teams in the format. Only South Carolina State and Presbyterian elected not to join the tournament.
Compton thought this was a way to have a major tournament in the state that also will act as a showcase for homegrown talent. All seven of the teams have multiple players from South Carolina on their rosters with the Gamecocks having six, which could be a high in Compton's 24th year at USC.
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"We threw the concept together to lets kick off the season trying to get all the state teams together and do a revolving trophy," Compton said. "Whoever wins it gets to host the tournament the following year. Hopefully the concept will kick, and everybody will stay on board. It's turned into a nice little deal, and you have something to play for with a chance to host the next year."
The Gamecocks are looking to rebound from a 21-24 record last season that included a 6-21 mark in the SEC. The only two newcomers to this year's team, Briana Hamilton (Byrnes High) and Hannah Milks (Wade Hampton), are from the state and will be counted on to contribute early.
Compton said in recent years, players have been traveling more in the summer to play against better competition and more players are playing in the fall. That commitment has led to better players being produced in the state.
"The talent is getting better, it's just not a lot number-wise," Compton said. "They are getting out and playing more in the summer. They are realizing you have to do that to see better teams. They are putting their focus on the sport and playing more fall ball. The state finally realizes how important that is."
Hamilton is expected to start at third base and has the ability to play any of the infield positions. Milks is a utility player that also could play anywhere. Hamilton was the South Carolina 4A Player of the Year last season and believes the talent instate is catching up with the rest of the nation.
"Growing up, it was let's go to California, Georgia or Florida to recruit. But now, I feel like players in South Carolina are good enough to play in the SEC now," Hamilton said. "It's spreading slowly but surely."