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USC softball returns to Tallahassee for NCAA tournament

Outfielder Kristen Struett (9) and the Gamecocks are back in the NCAA tournament.
Outfielder Kristen Struett (9) and the Gamecocks are back in the NCAA tournament. tglantz@thestate.com

The South Carolina softball team is headed to the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

The Gamecocks (37-20) will travel to the Tallahassee, Fla,. regional for the second consecutive season. Florida State (45-12), the tournament's No. 9 national seed, will play Dartmouth (25-16) in a first-round game, while USC will match up against Central Florida (48-7) in the other half of the four-team bracket. Both games will be played Friday.

South Carolina played UCF in the 2015 home opener at Carolina Softball Stadium, a 4-1 loss. The Gamecocks also played FSU in an early-season tournament in California, a 4-3 loss in 10 innings.

“We were excited to hear our name called, and we’re looking forward to going to Tallahassee to compete,” USC coach Beverly Smith. “It certainly looks like a regional with tough pitching like it was last year. From a preparation standpoint, we’re excited because we’ve seen UCF and Florida State already this season.”

USC earned its 18th bid to the tournament in school history. The Gamecocks, who have a 32-31 record in NCAA tournament play, made it to the Women's College World Series in 1983, 1989 and 1997.

Led by All-SEC junior outfielder Alaynie Page (.446, 15 HR, 45 RBIs) and sophomore pitcher Nickie Blue (20-7, 1.74 ERA), the Gamecocks set a school record with 60 home runs this season under Smith, who's in her fifth season at the helm.