Shortstop C.J. Browder wasn't around for the 37 wins in the USC Beaufort softball team's debut season. But she's not afraid to say how she feels about this year's version of the Sand Sharks.
"I think we're a lot deeper than we were last year with all the additions," Browder said.
One of those additions herself, Browder, a junior transfer, hit a home run in each of her first two games as a Sand Shark -- a three-run blast that ended Game 1 via the mercy rule, 10-0, and a solo shot in the 7-3 Game 2 win -- to lead No. 21 USC Beaufort to a opening day doubleheader sweep of St. Andrews on Saturday at the Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville.
"We're 2-0, that's what's important," USC Beaufort head coach Ty Rietkovich said. "We were ready to play somebody else, to see things happen to us and make adjustments."
Junior outfielder Melanie Goolsby went 5 for 6 with two doubles and two RBIs for the Sand Sharks, while Shelby Zipperer added a three-run homer in the first game and scored four runs in the doubleheader.
Rietkovich said the pop in the Sand Sharks' bats was no surprise -- at least to him.
"We can hit bombs anywhere in the lineup," he said." You just can't look back at the stats from a year ago. That's a mistake."
Browder, who homered just twice all of last season at Northwest Florida State, said she thought performances like hers Saturday might become the norm.
"I hope to bring it," she said.
Though most of the faces were different, the result was similar for the Sand Sharks in the circle, as well.
USC Beaufort ace Kristy Cook (1-0) and former Thomas Heyward Academy standout Ashlie Layman combined for a three-hit, six-inning shutout in Game 1.
In Game 2, Armstrong Atlantic transfer Caitlin Campbell (1-0) allowed two earned in five innings. She was followed by Coastal Georgia transfer Becca Hewitt with a scoreless inning and the freshman Layman, who allowed an unearned run in the final frame.
"I thought they did a great job in the opening games. Kristy did a great job once again," Rietkovich said. "C.C. did a good job in the second game. I'm really proud of Ashlie for coming in and closing both games. And Becca was great in the middle. All four reacted positively and stayed away from hurting themselves in the circle."
Given the tougher competition in this season's openers -- USCB swept Wesleyan by a combined score of 37-1 last year -- Rietkovich likes what he sees in his team.
"I really feel good about our position," he said. "After the first weekend last year, I didn't feel challenged. We're definitely ahead in the circle from where we were a year ago."
Browder was even more optimistic.
"We've got a lot that we need to unleash," Browder said, "and we haven't unleashed it, yet."
USC Beaufort 10, St. Andrews 0
St. Andrews 000 000 -- 0 3 1
USCB 140 023 -- 10 12 1
W: Cook (1-0). L: Eosso (0-1)
2B: Rietkovich, Browder, Byrd, Goolsby. HR: Zipperer (1), Browder (1). SB: Cross, Shaffren, Hughes, Rietkovich, Goolsby.
USC Beaufort 7, St. Andrews 3
St.. Andrews 000 200 1 -- 3 8 1
USC Beaufort 301 210 x -- 7 7 2
W: Campbell (1-0). L: Cross (0-1).
2B: Giacomin, King, Browder, Goolsby. HR: Browder (2). SB: Lee, Baird, Giacomin, Goolsby.
Records: USC Beaufort (2-0), St. Andrews (0-2).