#37 South Carolina Softball 2016 Preview

South Carolina Gamecocks
Overall Rank: #37
Conference Rank: #10 SEC
 South Carolina Logo
South Carolina returns an experienced lineup of position players along with an ace in the circle in Nickie Blue that will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Head Coach Beverly Smith has steadily built the Gamecocks program back up ever since taking over in 2011. South Carolina has won 21 games in SEC play over the last two seasons, which is a big step forward for this emerging program.
2015: 38-22, 10-14
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Beverly Smith
Field Players:
First team All-American Outfielder Alaynie Page is back and will be the engine that makes this South Carolina offense run in 2016. Page hit .436 last season as the leadoff hitter and hit 15 homeruns to pace the Gamecocks offensively. Infielder Victoria Williams will complement Page in the lineup after hitting .317 with four homeruns and 38 runs batted in. First baseman Kaylea Snaer will provide additional power in the South Carolina lineup. Snaer hit seven homeruns and drove in 36 runs while hitting .275. If this lineup can do a better job of drawing walks and get their team on-base percentage up to around .420 or higher, it will make the Gamecocks that much more dangerous offensively.
It will be Nickie Blue’s show in the circle for the most part in 2016 for South Carolina. Blue did a nice job in 39 appearances, including 26 starts, last season. zdhe went 20-9 with a 1.86 earned run average. The ability to keep the ball in the strike zone helped Blue only walk 75 batters in 203.2 innings of work last season. If Blue can stay consistent with her control and make opposing batters put the ball in play, then she should be in position to win 30 plus games as the ace this season.
Who to Watch:
Seniors Ansley Ard and Jordan Bizzell will provide that critical veteran leadership and will create havoc on the bases. The duo combined for 19 stolen bases in 24 attempts last season. If Ard and Bizzell can both hit over .300 and get on base at a higher level than last season, it will lengthen the Gamecocks lineup and force opposing pitchers to pitch more aggressively resulting in more quality pitches to hit.
Final Projection:
South Carolina is going to hit the ground running with its schedule as they open the season against national runner-up Michigan down at the USF Softball Classic. They also will battle Virginia Tech in that same tournament leading up to the home opener on February 17th against North Carolina. Other key non-conference games will include the Big South Conference champion Longwood and a trip out to Santa Barbara to play UCSB and Georgia Tech. The conference schedule is somewhat favorable for the Gamecocks as they don’t have to play Florida. Two road trips to Auburn and LSU will be the most difficult road trips during conference play. If South Carolina can find a way to go 2-4 in those six games that should set them for another chance to win 10 or so conference games and play their way back into the NCAA Tournament. The only thing that could derail that would be key injuries to players like Page or Blue, but odds are they should stay pretty healthy and that will always give the Gamecocks a chance in any given game.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Alaynie Page, OF, 195
Hits: Alaynie Page, OF, 81
Home Runs: Alaynie Page, OF, 15
RBIs: Alaynie Page, OF, 45
Runs: Alaynie Page, OF, 61
Stolen Bases: Alaynie Page, OF, 13
Wins: Nickie Blue, P, 20
Innings Pitched: Nickie Blue, P, 203.2
Strikeouts: Nickie Blue, P, 165
Saves: Nickie Blue, P, 4
Madness 2016 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#11 Kenzi Maguire
#44 Alexis Hull
#55 Alexis Mack
Madness 2016 Draft Rankings:
#16 Alaynie Page