Maddie Moore and John Rittman high five each other
Maddie Moore and John Rittman high five each other

Photo Credit: Clemson Athetics

Clemson Softball Drops Game One vs. Southeastern Louisiana in NCAA Regional

The Clemson Softball team would go 1-9 with runners in scoring position and give up seven infield base hits to fall to Southeastern Louisiana 6-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa. They’ll now wait to see who they’ll face tomorrow at 5:30pm EST against either the fourth-seeded USC Upstate Spartans, or the host team #14 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Valerie Cagle would start the game in the circle for the Tigers. She’d get a ground out for the first out of the inning. The next two batters would reach on soft-hit singles to put two on for the Lady Lions, but Cagle would strike out the next two batters to start the postseason on a high note. Ellie Dubois would deliver a 4-pitch walk to McKenzie Clark to start the bottom half of the first. Alex Brown would hit into a fielder’s choice to get Clark out going to second, but Maddie Moore would send a hit over second base to get the first hit for the Tigers and put two on for Clemson with one out for Cagle. She would hit into a fielder’s choice that would get Brown out at third for out number two. A wild pitch to Lindsey Garcia would advance the runners, but Garcia would hit a hard shot deep to center field that didn’t have enough juice and would be caught to end the Tiger threat.

Cagle would start the top of the second with a full-count walk, allowing Southeastern to put in a pinch runner to try to get their first run across. The runner would immediately get put out on a fielder’s choice. On the very next pitch Viera would throw out the runner attempting to steal for out number two, and Cagle would get a pop out to Arielle Oda to take momentum away from the Lady Lions. Julia Knowler would draw another leadoff walk for Clemson in the bottom of the second. Alia Logoleo would hit a solid base hit into left field to put two on and no outs for Aby Viera, who would drop a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners sixty feet. Kennedy Ariail would come in to pinch run for Knowler on third, with Arielle Oda up to bat. She’d strike out without swinging on a full count for the second out, and hand the bat to Clark at the top of the Tiger order. Just like Garcia in the inning before, McKenzie would pop out to center and end the inning to strand two more Clemson runners in scoring position.

The top of the third would be a weird one for the Tiger defense. The first batter would hit a ground ball to Brown at second, but beat the throw to be safe at first. The next batter would advance the runner to second on a sacrifice hit, and the following would hit a short slapper to advance the runner to third. She’d be safe at first, then move over to second from an aggressive bit of base running. Third baseman Maria Detillier would then get a base hit into right field to score two runs for Southeastern. Detillier would then steal second, where first baseman Lexi Johnson would hit a ball into shallow right center field to score Detillier to give the Lady Lions a quick 3-0 lead. Cagle would strike out the next batter for out two but give up another base hit, which would force coach John Rittman to end her afternoon in the circle (2.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 K). Millie Thompson would take the ball and get a quick ground out to Cagle (who moved over to first base to replace Grace Hiller) and stop the bleeding.

After a couple of uneventful innings due to good pitching from both teams, the Lady Lions would draw a walk off of Thompson after a ground out to put one runner on with one out to start the fifth. Next, a close play at first on a ground out to short would be challenged and eventually overturned to give Southeastern two runners on base. A solid hit into center field by Lexi Johnson would score another runner for Southeastern to make the score 4-0. A sacrifice ground out to first would give the Tigers two outs but advance the runners to second and third. Audrey Greenley would then hit a weird ball to the infield that would bounce off a couple gloves, ultimately giving time for the runners to come around and score. 6-0, Lady Lions. Note that those last runs would be scored as earned, as the ball was a tough play for both infielders – not ruled as errors. Thompson would get the last batter to ground out for the third out to move to the bottom of the inning, where the Tigers would then have 9 outs to make up the 6-run deficit.

Viera would immediately line out to third, but Oda would get hit by a pitch and turn over the lineup. This would end the day for Dubois (4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). Clark would single against the new pitcher, Allison Brunson, to give Brown two runners and one out. She’d walk on a 3-1 count to load the bases for Maddie Moore, where Maddie would ground into a fielder’s choice that would get Clark out at second but drive in Oda to scratch across the first run for the Tigers in this regional. Cagle would ground out to end the inning, with Clemson now down 6-1 headed to the sixth.

Brooke McCubbin would then take the ball from Thompson (2.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB) to start the inning. She’d give up an in-field single (The SELA sixth of the day), but would then strike out the next batter for her first out. A bunt to McCubbin that she couldn’t handle would put two runners on base, but a ground out back to McCubbin from the next batter would give the Tigers out number two. McCubbin would strike out the next batter with a nasty changeup to end the Lady Lion threat and send Clemson back to the plate with time running out.

Back to back base hits by Garcia and Knowler would give the Tigers two on with no outs to start the home half of the sixth inning. That would chase Brunson after a short day (0.2 IP, 3 H, 1 BB) and give the ball to Cera Blanchard. Logoleo would fly out to first base, but Garcia would tag up from second and advance to third on a heads up play. After a challenge by the SELA head coach would fail, Viera would get a hit into left field for an RBI single and make the score 6-2. Oda would then get a high-slapper in the infield to force a close play at first – but she would eventually be ruled out for the second out. With runners on second and third (again) for Clark, McKenzie would hit a soft line drive to the short stop who would make the diving catch and end the inning.

The final inning of the game would start with a single against McCubbin through the right side of the infield, followed by a sacrifice bunt to advance the base runner to second. Another infield single and close play at first would move the runner to third, and then Audrey Greely would follow that up by stealing second. With one out a fly ball to McKenzie Clark would get out number two, but the runner attempting to tag up from third would be called out for leaving early to end the top of the seventh for Southeastern. In the bottom half of the seventh, Brown would pop out to shallow center. Moore would get a single into center on a hard hit ball over second base to try and start a late rally for the Tigers, but Cagle would strike out looking to give the Lady Lions one out to go. Garcia then popped out to left field to end the game.

Southeastern Louisiana would win their first ever NCAA tournament game in their first ever NCAA tournament appearance in program history. One of only three teams in the country that are statistically in the top 10 in batting average and ERA, the Lady Lions showed off their skillset against an up-and-down Clemson performance. SELA will move into the winner’s bracket to play at 3pm tomorrow for a chance at the finale on Sunday, while Clemson will need to win two straight to make Sunday – and four straight to win the regional.

The Tigers will try to bounce back tomorrow, with the first pitch set for 2 pm in Tuscaloosa on one of ESPN’s family of networks.

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