Despite Clemson Softball’s comeback efforts, Duke takes Game One of Series

Softball, much like basketball, can be a game of runs. Duke and Clemson softball would prove that to be the case on this beautiful and windy night in McWhorter Stadium.

Regan Spencer would start the game strong against the Blue Devils’ powerful lineup, giving up just one hit in the first. Maddie Moore would start the game for the Tigers with a single in the bottom half of the first, then Brown and Clark would hit into back to back fielder’s choices – resulting in Brown on 2nd with two outs. Knowler would then hit a blooper above the head of the third baseman, but shortstop Baker would make a long run and dive to make the beautiful catch for the third out.

Spencer would get Duke to go down 1-2-3 in the top of the second, including Regan’s first strikeout of the night. The Tigers would do the same for pitcher Lillie Walker, who would have her first start, despite having 9 wins on the year.

A clean bunt by shortstop Baker would give the Blue Devils a leadoff base runner in the third. Spencer would follow that up with a walk to give Duke two runners on base and no outs. The top of the lineup would give a sacrifice bunt to move the runners, and Davidson’s deep fly ball out to center would score the runner from third to give Duke the 1-0 lead. Second baseman Vega would follow that up with a drive to left center for an RBI double to make the score 2-0. Regan would pick up strikeout number 2 of the night to retire the side.

*Note: a sharp foul ball found its way into the Clemson dugout and hit Clemson pitching coach Kyle Jamison. Coach Rittman went into the tunnel to check on him, which caused a short pause in the game.

When play would continue in the bottom of the third, Clemson would go 1-2-3 at the plate, and the feeling of the momentum going towards the Duke dugout was palpable.

The top of the fourth would be where the visitors would take hold of the game. After a couple of singles and a wild pitch, shortstop Baker would hit a ball to right field to get another run for Duke. Leadoff hitter Torres would come up two batters later and hit a double to plate two more and make the score 5-0.

However, these Tigers would not go down without a fight on this night. Alia Logoleo would hit a 2-run home run to drive in Clark who walked before her, and cut into the Duke lead. The score would be 5-2 Blue Devils at the end of four.

After a quiet inning from Duke in the top of the fifth, Clemson would continue to cut into the lead. After a Moore single, Alex Brown would hit a deep shot to right center field to score Moore from first. Brown would be tagged out attempting a triple, but the run would stand to make it 5-3 after five.

Momentum would swing back to Duke in the sixth. With only one out and the bases loaded, second baseman Vega would hit a ball to deep center. Despite an amazing attempt from Clark to rob the grand slam, the ball would bounce out of her glove over the fence and secure four more runs for the Blue Devils, making it 9-3 after the Vega homer. Spencer would walk the next batter, which prompted Rittman to end Regan’s rough night (5.1 IP, 10 H, 9 ER) and hand the ball to Brooke McCubbin. She would stop the bleeding with a couple of quick outs to retire the side.

Tonight was a night of runs for both teams, and the Tigers would respond in the bottom of the sixth. After a Clark double, Logoleo would single up the middle to score Clark and cut into the lead again. After a few errant throws, Logoleo and Ariail (running for Garcia after a single) would end up on third with only one out. A sac bunt by Jojo Hyatt would score Logoleo to make the score 9-5. Clemson would get another run across after Kylee Johnson singled to right field and score Ariail, cutting into the Duke lead again. This game was not over yet.

Even with the momentum back on the Tigers’ side, Duke would tick up the lead again in the final inning. Torres would get another RBI on a base hit to right, making it 10-6 with one out and two runners on base. Claire Davidson, who had yet to register a hit up to this point, would hit an opposite-field home run that just snuck over the wall in left, plating three more runs for the Blue Devils. McCubbin would get the next two batters out to end the inning and her night in the circle.

The bottom of the seventh would still see some life from the Tigers despite the deficit. Duke would enter Drogemuller – which some Clemson fans may recognize from her time at Pitt – who would immediately load the bases with no outs. Julia Knowler would knock in Moore from third on a sacrifice ground out and the Tigers would make it 13-7. Logoleo would then double to left center to score Brown from third, making it 13-8. Clemson proved to be a pesky bunch and one that would not be taken lightly, drawing many positive comments from the national media and commentators on ESPN2.

Come what may from moral victories, this night would belong to Duke. Coach Marissa Young would re-enter Lillie Walker to try to close out the seventh for the visitors. Despite a pop-out and sac-fly from Garcia to plate Clark from third, Walker would get Viera on a ground out to first to end the game. Duke would take game one by a score of 13-9.

Even with the loss, Clemson will hope to carry the momentum and confidence into game two’s senior day celebration. The first pitch is set for 1pm Saturday at McWhorter.

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