BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb's softball team begins a busy week of action Tuesday afternoon on the road, visiting SEC foe South Carolina for a 4:00 pm first pitch.
The game will air live on ESPN3 (WatchESPN.com) via SEC Network+ from Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field. The meeting was a late addition to the 2017 schedule for both teams.
Gardner-Webb (7-17) and the Gamecocks (19-10) are each coming off consecutive losses – with South Carolina dropping three-straight to top-ranked Florida. The Runnin' Bulldogs lost a pair to ACC member Syracuse at home last Tuesday, falling 5-2 and 6-2 to the Orange.
The meeting will be Gardner-Webb's second against an SEC foe this season, with No. 10 Alabama taking a 9-0 win over the 'Dogs on February 25 during the Easton Bama Bash in Tuscaloosa.
Callie Thornton leads the way offensively for Gardner-Webb, batting .297 with a pair of extra base hits and eight RBI in 24 starts at third base. She has also walked 11 times – tied for the team lead – which has helped her forge a team-best .408 on base percentage.
Megan Champion (.293, 5 doubles) and Alia Booth (.275, 11 RBI) lead the team in slugging percentage – with marks of .415 and .435 respectively – with Booth one of the Big South's most promising freshman hitters. The Dacula, Ga., rookie has three triples, two doubles and a home run to her credit so far.
Kaylee Wacaster (.253, 12 runs, 10 RBI) sets the table and paces the team in runs scored and stolen bases (four in four attempts).
Summer Darnell (0-3, 3.09 ERA), Olivia Henson (2-0, 3.15 ERA) and Mackenzie Thompson (2-8, 3.55 ERA) lead the pitching rotation, with the trio combining for 32 appearances and 15 starts so far. Thompson has been the workhorse in the circle, hurling 51.1 innings and pitching a pair of complete games. Ashley Wark also has a complete game to her credit in five starts (14 appearances).
Sam Harrell has picked up a pair of saves in four relief appearances for Gardner-Webb.
South Carolina is batting .283 as a team, with Krystan White (.383, 2 HR, 27 RBI) and Mackenzie Boesel (.341, 4 HR, 21) providing plenty of pop at the plate. Kaylea Snaer (.305, 4 HR, 12 HR) joins that pair as one of three regulars with slugging percentages above .540 this season.
Pitchers Cayla Drotar (4-1, 2.74 ERA), Jessica Elliott (8-4, 2.97 ERA) and Nickie Blue (7-5, 3.01 ERA) have split innings evenly for the Gamecocks so far this spring.
After Tuesday's game in Columbia, Gardner-Webb will return home to open Big South Conference action vs. Winthrop – hosting the Eagles on Thursday in a doubleheader beginning at 4:00 pm. The two teams will play the nightcap at 6:00 pm on the turf at Brinkley Softball Stadium.
GWU will head back to the Palmetto State to close out its week, playing three at Charleston Southern. The two teams will battle in a twinbill on Saturday (March 25), beginning at 1:00 pm and will close the three-game series on Sunday at 1:00 pm.