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Analysis: Թϱ softball earns 4-0 victory over College of Charleston in rain-shortened contest

<p>Senior catcher Jen Cummings hits to the outfield during South Carolina's matchup against the College of Charleston on Feb. 28, 2024. Cummings later scored, contributing to the four total runs earned by the Gamecocks in its 4-0 victory.</p>
Senior catcher Jen Cummings hits to the outfield during Թϱ's matchup against the College of Charleston on Feb. 28, 2024. Cummings later scored, contributing to the four total runs earned by the Gamecocks in its 4-0 victory.

The No. 22 Թϱ softball team picked up its second midweek victory of the season with a 4-0 win over the College of Charleston on Wednesday.

The matchup remained close for much of the evening, as neither team generated much offense before the game was called after just five innings due to an extended weather delay.

Both teams took a while to get their bats going. The Gamecocks and Cougars mustered just three hits combined through the first four innings.

But it was Թϱ that would gain an early lead with a two-run second inning. Freshman infielder Karley Shelton earned a full-count walk with the bases loaded to drive in the Gamecocks’ first run of the afternoon. The next batter, junior infielder Brooke Blankenship, launched a sacrifice fly, bringing home senior infielder Denver Bryant to score and double Թϱ’s advantage.

Թϱ scored two more runs in the fifth inning to build on its lead before the weather delay.

Those runs would be enough for the Gamecocks, as the team’s pitching staff held the Cougars to 0 runs and two hits over 5.1 innings.

Here are some takeaways from the midweek contest as Թϱ heads into its second road trip of the season:

Freshman pitchers show out

Dominant production in the circle helped propel the Gamecocks to victory. Freshman pitchers Sage Mardjetko and Reganne Bennett both delivered strong performances, with neither allowing any runs and Mardjetko allowing no hits.

Though Bennett allowed two hits in the first inning, she quickly rebounded and stifled Charleston's offense with two hitless frames. The two also combined to strike out nine batters and walk two.

“(Bennett) went out and was really attacking. She was ahead in the count. She throws hard,” head coach Beverly Smith said. “When Sage comes in behind her, Sage is just such a different look … She was getting a lot of swing and misses up in the zone.”

The difference in both pitchers' styles kept the Cougars from getting into rhythm at the plate and supported the team's offense, which was not productive overall.

Both Mardjetko and Bennett have proven to be a potent duo for the Gamecocks early in the season with a combined 7-1 record and a 1.56 earned run average, which has helped Թϱ's pitching staff become a source of strength for the team.

Plate discipline leads to runs

Թϱ’s offense struggled early in the game, registering just one hit in the first four innings.

Despite this lack of production, Gamecock batters stayed patient at the plate. And that patience was rewarded with an early lead.

Թϱ earned six total walks in the contest, half of which came in the second inning of the game. Both players who scored in that frame — Junior catcher Giulia Desiderio, who pinch-ran for senior outfielder Aniyah Black, and Bryant — both reached base via walks.

The win demonstrated how the Gamecocks can put runs together even when it can’t string hits together.

“You can be a lot more successful when you swing at strikes, so I think the patience of our hitters at the plate was good,” Smith said. ”I thought we had really some good barrels that got caught in the wind a little bit tonight, but plate discipline is something we certainly work a lot on, and I thought our hitters did a good job sticking with their plan.”

What's next?

Թϱ (14-2) will head to Orlando, Florida, for its second road trip of the season as a participant in the Knights Classic tournament. The team will play against Kennesaw State, UCF, Bethune-Cookman and Princeton from March 1 through 3. Its second game of the weekend against UCF at 6 p.m. on Friday will be streamed on ESPN+.


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