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Old 04-23-2014, 12:42 AM   #1
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Default Softball tops Georgia Southern 3-1 .

Article from S&F :

Gamecocks start crucial stretch with 3-1 win over Georgia Southern

It was a shaky start for Julie Sarratt and the South Carolina softball team (31-17), but designated player Sarah Mooney steadied the ship with a two-run home run in the third that proved to be the difference in the 3-1 win over Georgia Southern (30-16).

Sarratt allowed an unearned run in the second inning, but shut the door after that, pitching five innings of one run, three-hit ball to pick up her 15th win of the season.

Mooney gave USC an early 1-0 lead in the first inning after she hit a bloop single to right field that scored third basemen Lauren Masters. That followed a walk by Masters and a double off of the wall in left by right fielder Chelsea Hawkins.

Georgia Southern would answer right back in the top of the second, thanks to a little help from the Gamecocks.

After a lead-off single by Morgan Robinson, GSU’s Kaitlyn Johnson attempted to sacrifice Robinson over to second. However, Lauren Masters attempted to force Robinson out at second, but was late on the throw and both runners were safe. The Eagles capitalized on the error when catcher AJ Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly to right-center field that brought in the tying run.

It stayed that way until Mooney blasted an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left to put South Carolina on top for good.

Mooney said that when she first came to South Carolina from James Madison she didn’t expect to display the power that she has so far, but help from the coaching staff has allowed her to adjust.

“It’s definitely been an eye-opening experience for sure,” Mooney said.

The homer was the 10th of the season for Mooney, allowing her to become one of just four players in school history to reach double-digits in home runs. The school record is 11 and with six regular season games left, Mooney is well within reach.

The Gamecocks will need all the help they can get from Mooney and her teammates. Tuesday’s game was USC’s second without first basemen Kaylea Snaer, who went down over the weekend series with LSU with a left arm injury and is out indefinitely. Snaer was batting .301 with eight homers and a team-leading 35 RBIs before her injury.

Mooney said that Snaer’s shoes will be hard to fill, but she is confident she and her teammates can collectively fill the gap.

“I have full confidence in our team, one through nine,” Mooney said. “We’re going to miss her for sure on the field, but she’s with us in the dugout.”

Coach Beverly Smith added that she hopes Snaer will be able to join the team again this season, but it will depend on how her rehab goes. The coach was particularly proud of how Hawkins has handled the move to the third spot in the batting order.

The home run by Mooney appeared to settle Sarratt down. After allowing an unearned run on two hits in her first three innings pitched she allowed just one single in her final two innings.

“I think she pitched a really nice game,” Smith said. “After the run she responded well, threw a good mix and got some fly outs and the defense was able to take care of it for her.”

Freshman Nickie Blue closed the door on Georgia Southern with two innings of one-hit ball to pick up her sixth save of the season.

It was the defense that was most pleasing to Smith after she had to shuffle the infield because of the injury to Snaer. Blue induced a lot of ground balls in her two innings pitched and the infielders handled every one of them.

Smith expected the game against Georgia Southern to go down to the wire, pointing out the fact that GSU starting pitcher Sarah Purvis had a 1.94 ERA coming into the game.

“She could throw in the SEC,” Smith said of Purvis. “She’s talented.”

Tuesday night’s game was the first of four straight nonconference games for the Gamecocks, a stretch that is of utmost importance for Smith.

“One of the things the (NCAA) committee looks at for postseason is how did you do in your last ten games,” Smith said. “We’ve talked about that to our team and they want to make sure that we’re putting ourselves in the best possible position for the postseason.”

**Story by Kyle Heck for Spurs & Feathers**
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