Claflin defeats Southern Wesleyan in season opener

 FLORENCE – Craig Hopkins hit a single to left field to bring in Tavion Towers for the game-winning run as Claflin University edged Southern Wesleyan University 13-12 in the Pepsi Pop-Off Series at Sparrow Stadium on Friday.

The one-run victory earned Claflin its first season-opening win in nine years. The last successful opening day for a Panther team was a 13-5 win over Voorhees College (Oct. 2, 2010).

In pulling out the late-game win, Claflin blew a 12-6 lead after six innings of play. SWU pushed across three runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings, tying the contest at 12-12 and setting the stage for the Panthers' win.

Josh Core, the loser for SWU, came on in relief of Aaron Bennett in the bottom of the ninth.

Core gave up a single to Edzavial Paul, who was pinch run for by Towers.

Towers then advanced to second base on a wild pitch and later came home on the single by Hopkins.

Angel Morel, 1-0, picked up the win for Claflin, allowing three hits and a run over two innings of work.

The Panthers starter Dillon Parker pitched six strong innings, giving up six runs on six hits and striking out four batters.

Claflin, which pounded out 15 hits in the game, was led at the plate by Clyde Parker who went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI, followed by Grayland Fowler and Eric McElveen with two hits and 2 RBI each.

Other top hitters for the Panthers included Elliott Melton, Garardic Dobbs and Paul who all finished with two hits and an RBI each, while Hopkins added a hit and 2 RBI.

Southern Wesleyan was led by Juilo Justo who finished the game 2-for-2 with 3 RBI.

Claflin will wrap up play in the Pepsi Pop-Off Series event on Saturday, taking on the host team Francis Marion at 4 p.m.

The last time Claflin and Francis Marion met in a season-opening invitational was during the 2017 campaign. The Patriots wiped out a 4-3 Claflin lead with a four-run seventh in winning 7-4.

Claflin opens 2019 softball season

NEWBERRY – The Claflin University Lady Panthers softball team will open the 2019 season this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 2-3, taking part in a round-robin tournament at Newberry College.

The two-day event will be played at the Smith Road Complex on Newberry campus.

Claflin will play two games on Saturday, starting with Mercyhurst University of Erie, Pennsylvania, at 1 p.m. followed by host Newberry at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the Lady Panthers will face the same two teams with the same starting times as Saturday games.

Claflin will enter the season as newest member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) after competing in the in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) for 10 years. Last season, the Lady Panthers finished 27-28 and made a deep run in the SIAC tournament, falling to Kentucky State University in the semifinals.

Claflin compiled a 17-6 record against SIAC teams last season that included conference and tournament games.

The Lady Panthers returned several key components from last year’s team.

The leader of the pack is Kayla Cato, the 2018 SIAC Player of the Year, led the team in most of the major offensive categories. Cato batted .379 with a .763 slugging percentage, 58 runs scored, 67 hits, 15 home runs and 44 RBI. She also had 135 total bases and stolen 17 bases.

LaKaylin Lee is another outstanding offensive producer for the Lady Panthers finishing the 2018 campaign with a .349 batting average, 44 hits, 40 runs scored, four home runs and 29 RBI. She also spent some time on the mound, posting a 2-5 record with 31 strike outs in 30 innings of work.

Other top returning hitters for Claflin include Chelise Morman, who batted .293 with 39 hits and 29 RBI; and Kaela Robinson at .292 with 38 hits and 34 runs scored.

The top returning pitcher is Yemaya Rich who finished with a 3-6 record in 45 innings. Reagan Hill also spent time on the mound.

In the matchup against Mercyhurst, the Lady Panthers will face a Lakers team that finished 8-30 last season. Mercyhurst is a member of the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference.

 Key returnees for the Lakers include Ellie Dougher, the team’s top hitter last season at .326; Sarah Koscho with a .295 batting average, 41 total bases and 18 RBIs; and Jolene Teller, who batted .313 for the season.

 Tori Pierucci is the top returning pitcher for Mercyhurst with five wins to go with a 2.26 earned run average.

Claflin's second opponent in the tournament, Newberry, is coming off a 30-19 finish in 2018 and landed three players on the South Atlantic Conference All-Preseason Team.

 Haley Simonds leads the trio with a .398 batting average and led the SAC last season with 58 RBIs. She also recorded 23 extra-bases for a .677 slugging percentage. Simonds made several appearances on the mound in relief, recording two saves.

 Natalie Willis, who batted .406 last season for Newberry, collected 67 hits and stolen 13 bases; while Tori Caldwell added a .327 batting average at the plate.

 Newberry returns its top pitcher in Alyssa Ball, who was 13-10 on the mound last season over 125 innings and fanned 43 batters.

 Ball will be joined by Chelsey Cunningham, who finished last season at 6-1.

After the season-opening tournament, Claflin will participate in the HBCU Division II Invitational at Acworth, Georgia, Feb. 9-10.

The Lady Panthers will play four teams from the SIAC in Fort Valley State University, Clark Atlanta University, Kentucky State and Tuskegee University. Claflin went 7-2 against those teams last season.

The Lady Panthers will make their home debut on Feb. 13 in a double-header against Francis Marion University at Adden Street Park.

SCSU basketball teams on two-game MEAC road swing

The South Carolina State men’s and women’s basketball team head north for a two-game Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) road swing beginning in Princess Anne, Maryland, versus Maryland Eastern Shore Saturday at the Hytche Arena Center.

Tipoff for the women’s contest is 2 p.m., followed by the men in a 4 p.m. start.

The Bulldogs will look to rebound after a tough 88-92 road loss to Savannah State last week. Junior forward Ozante Fields (Denmark-Olar) returned from injury to lead the way with 16 points. Meanwhile, UMES dropped a 57-72 decision to Howard in their last outing. Tyler Jones paced the Hawks with 17 in the loss.

On the women’s side, the Lady Bulldogs (10-10 overall, 3-3 MEAC) posted an impressive 71-60 win over SSU on the road. Junior forward Taylor Brown powered SC State with 18 points and 9 rebounds in the win. UMES (11-10 overall, 7-1) one of the hottest teams in the league is looking to seek their fifth-straight league win over the Lady Bulldogs. In their last contest the Lady Hawks knocked off Howard 80-73. Ra’Jean Martin added 22 points and Ciani Byrom chipped in 17 in the win.

 All-MEAC Preseason selection Damani Applewhite ranks among the top three performers in the league tossing in 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds, while junior forward Taylor Browns is the leader for the Lady Bulldogs at 14.0 points and 8.9 rebounds per outing.

S.C. State returns to action on Monday when both teams take on Delaware State in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) doubleheader in Dover, Delaware. Tipoff for the women’s contest is 5:30 p.m., followed by the men in a 7:30 p.m. start.

Richard lowers SCSU 400-meter record again

COLUMBIA – For the second time in as many weeks, South Carolina State sprinter Tyrell Richard has established a new school indoor record in the 400 meters. On Friday, at the three-day Carolina Challenge being hosted by the University of South Carolina, Richard finished second in the 400 meters with a time of 46.01, lowering the record of 46.42 which he set just last Saturday at the VMI Team Challenge in Lexington, Virginia.

Also with a runner-up finish for S.C. State during a limited Friday schedule was the Lady Bulldogs’ Keturah Hunter in the weight throw with a toss of 15.96 meters, a personal record.

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