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Winthrop Eagles’ skid continues against USC

The good news didn’t last long for Winthrop’s softball team.

And that meant the losing streak continues.

The Eagles dropped a 12-2 decision to South Carolina Wednesday night at Terry Field, their third loss to the Gamecocks this season and their 11th in a row.

“Hey, they opened a can of hit-the-ball, and it stayed open,” Winthrop coach Mark Cooke said. “They had too many hits, we walked too many, it’s as simple as that.

“In a lot of ways, this was the first bad loss we’ve had in a while.”

South Carolina (20-16) won the three game series by a cumulative score of (29-4), and broke the game open in dramatic fashion in the third inning.

After the Eagles took a 1-0 lead on Kristy Noble’s RBI single in the second, the Gamecocks didn’t stop hitting.

South Carolina forced Winthrop into a four-pitcher inning, with starter Chelsey Schoenfeldt pulled in favor of sophomore Natalie Becker, who was only six pitches into her night (a walk and a 2-0 count) when Cooke pulled her. First-year players Sara Allen and Sutton Watson didn’t fare much better, as the Eagles allowed 12 hits and walked three on the night.

Winthrop’s last win was a 2-0 win over UNC Wilmington on March 10, which was followed by six losses in Hawaii, a 5-4 loss to Campbell in the Big South opener and a three-game sweep by Charleston Southern.

But Cooke pointed to the stiff competition in Hawaii – five of the six losses were to Top 25 teams – and said he’s still confident the improvement is imminent.

“People can say 11 in a row, but I don’t see it that way,” Cooke said. “We’ve played with the best in the country, and we’ve shown we can compete with any of them.”

Cooke said the best news was that shortstop and leadoff hitter Megan Chapman was able to run a bit, in hopes of her returning for this weekend’s conference series at Liberty. Chapman suffered a sprained ankle last weekend against Campbell, and her absence was obvious.

“We miss our spark plug out there,” Cooke said. “She means a lot to us, defensively and at the plate, so not having her in there makes a big difference.”

South Carolina pitcher Kristen Struett (1-0) walked five and scattered four hits, but did the most damage at the plate. She got her first hit of the season in the third inning to drive in a run, then plated four with a home run in the fourth.