Gamecocks are battled tested as team advances in NCAAs, coach says
The South Carolina softball team advanced to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years. It's been a memorable ride that continues late Friday evening at Arizona State.
But before the Gamecocks try to add another chapter, let's look at the reasons why this 2018 season already has been historic for Beverly Smith's club:
1. The wins
USC is 49-15 as it enters game one of the best-of-three Tempe Super Regional against the Sun Devils (46-11). The 49 victories are tied for the sixth-most in the 41-year history of the program.
A single win this weekend and the Gamecocks have 50 for the first time since the 1997 College World Series season.
2. A regional host
Carolina's dramatic regional performance played out in front of garnet and black clad fans at Beckham Field. It marked the first time since 2007 the Gamecocks hosted an NCAA regional, but the first time since 2002 they were a No. 1 seed in their own place.
USC was a host in '07 — but as a No. 4 seed.
3. Home cooking
The Gamecocks finished with a 29-3 home record. This included sweeps of nationally ranked Tennessee and Mississippi State.
Taking all three from the No. 2 Volunteers in March marked USC's first sweep of a top-5 opponent since it joined the SEC in 1997.
4. SEC success
The Gamecocks on May 12 fell to national power Florida in the SEC tournament championship game. USC's mere appearance in the contest was its first since 2001.
USC, with a 15-9 record, entered the 12-team event as the league's No. 3 seed. That's the highest in the eight-year Smith era.
5. Power at the plate
Tiara Duffy's fourth-inning home run that helped USC to a 3-1 win against Arkansas in the SEC semifinals gave the Gamecocks 61 homers on the season, a school record.
They enter Friday with 64 HRs, including Krystan White's walk-off that saved Carolina's year against Liberty in the regional. The increase in power can be credited to Matt Lisle, USC's first-year hitting coach who has more than 127,000 Twitter followers.
6. Circle success
7. Defensive dominance
Carolina's .979 fielding percentage is the best in school history. The Gamecocks also have set a school record for most double plays turned in a season.
Third baseman Jana Johns was USC's representative on the SEC All-Defensive team. The freshman has committed just five errors all season.
How to watch
NCAA Softball Super Regionals
South Carolina (49-15) at Arizona State (46-11)
▪ 11 pm Friday (ESPNU)
▪ 9 pm Saturday (ESPN2)
▪ 9 pm Sunday (ESPNU) if necessary