Clemson Softball Handles USC Upstate, Wins Elimination Game 8-0 Despite Delay

The Clemson Softball Tigers faced elimination from the NCAA Tournament with a loss to USC Upstate this afternoon, but fought through adversity (including a lengthy rain delay) to dominate en route to an 8-0 Tuscaloosa Regional win. Regan Spencer would get the W in the circle, pitching five commanding innings around significant run support from a plethora of Tiger hitters.

After leadoff walks delivered by starting USC Upstate pitcher Maddie Drerup to McKenzie Clark and Alex Brown to start the first inning, Maddie Moore would ground into a fielder’s choice to get Clark at third for the first out of the game. Next up, Valerie Cagle would hit into another fielder’s choice to move Brown to third but get Moore out at second. Lindsey Garcia would have the chance to drive in a run to start the game, but she’d ground out to third to end the early Tiger threat. Regan Spencer would take the ball in this do-or-die tournament game, and she’d start by getting the Spartan’s Taliyah Thomas to ground out for out number one. Alanna Deal would hit a hard hit ball up the third base line, but despite a great grab by Alia Logoleo, she’d bobble the ball and Deal would be safe at first. Celeste Delorenzo then popped out to Garcia in right for out number two, and Aby Viera would catch Deal stealing second for out number three.

Julia Knowler would start the second inning with a popout in foul territory. Logoleo would ground out to short for the second out, but Viera would deliver the first hit of the game for the Tigers with a single into right field. Arielle Oda would then execute a perfect two-out bunt to put two runners on with Clark back up at the plate. She’d pop out to left, however, and the second Clemson threat would be snuffed out. Cassie Norris would hit Spencer’s first pitch of the home half to left center for a single. Spencer would get Denver Lauer out on a high chopper back to the circle, but the runner would advance to second. Next, Abigail Pippen would go down on strikes for out number two and give Spencer her first strikeout of the day. Emily Stern would ground out to short to leave Norris stranded and send the game to the third.

Brown couldn’t manage to get a bunt down, and would eventually ground out to second to start the top of the third. Moore would dribble a hit into center field, however, to give the Tigers a one-out base runner. Cagle would hit into another fielder’s choice, but move Moore over to second with two away. Another opportunity for Clemson to get a hit with runners in scoring position, and Garcia would ground out again to strand yet another Tiger on base. At this point in the tournament, Clemson was 1-for-14 hitting with RISP. In the bottom half, Abby Polk would punch a ball that would drop into left field for a base hit to start it off for USC Upstate. A fouled bunt on a 1-2 count would get Amie Johnson for the first out, handing the bat back to Thomas at the top of the lineup. Thomas would strike out to give the Spartans two outs in the inning. A third strikeout of the inning to Deal by Spencer would get the Tiger dugout fired up as Clemson would head to pick up the bats in the fourth, still no score.

Finally, Clemson would break through in the fourth inning. Knowler would draw a full-count walk, and Kennedy Ariail would come in to pinch run for Knowler. Delorenzo would make a diving grab at third to get Logoleo at first, but Ariail would advance to second for Viera – who would ground out to the pitcher and move Ariail over to third. Oda would have a chance to give Clemson their first run, and she would deliver. Arielle would hit a ball into shallow left field to bring Kennedy home from third and give the Tigers the 1-0 lead. After Oda stole second, Clark would pop out to left to end the visitor’s half. Spencer would get a ground out for the first out, but Brown would let a ball trickle under her glove into right field to get Norris aboard. Lauer would strike out to give Spencer her fifth strikeout of the game, and Pippen would ground out to short to end the inning.

Drerup (4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB) would give the ball to Sierra Maness to start the fifth. The pitching change wouldn’t slow up the Tigers. She’d give up a leadoff double to Brown to start her afternoon. Maddie Moore would then take Maness to deep left center off the wall to score Brown from second and give the Tigers a 2-run lead. With Moore on second and no outs, Cagle would ground out on a good play by the shortstop and keep the runner in place. Garcia would then pop out to right field for out number two. Knowler would keep the scoring going, however, with a ground ball down the first base line to bring across Moore from second and give her a double of her own. Logoleo would reach from a mishandle by the third baseman, and the Tigers would have runners on the corners with two outs and Viera up to the plate. She’d ground out on a full count to end the visitor’s half, but the damage had been done: 3-0 Tigers, heading to the bottom of the fifth. Spencer would get the Spartans 1-2-3 to end the inning.

Oda would walk on a 3-2 count to lead off the top of the sixth, but a weather delay would stop the game – with the delay lasting three and a half hours.

The weather delay wasn’t enough to deter Clemson tonight. When play would resume, Clark would hit a double to left field to put runners on second and third with no outs. Brown would then hit a hard ball into center field to score Oda from third and make the lead 4-0, still no outs in the sixth. That would be all Maness would see (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) as a new Spartan pitcher in Alyssa Kelly would take to the circle. Moore would send her first pitch to center for a sac fly to score Clark from third, now 5-0 Tigers. Cagle would bounce a ball high to short for the put out, but Brown would be moved to second with two outs. She would steal third on a pitch in the dirt to Garcia, who would hit a ground ball into right field to score another run and give Clemson the 6-run lead. Julia Bombhardt, pinch running for Garcia, would immediately steal second. Knowler would walk on four pitches, giving two more runners for Logoleo. They’d both advance a base on another low pitch, which would be enough for Logoleo’s next pitch to be hit into left field to score both runners and make the score 8-0. Viera would pop out to finally end the top of the sixth for Clemson, but victory would be all but secured.

To rest Spencer for the next game (5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER), Millie Thompson would take the ball to try to shut the door on USC Upstate. She would strike out the first two batters on 7 pitches, and end the Spartan season with a ground out back to the circle for the final out of the game.

Clemson will get a rematch with Southeastern Louisiana, first pitch scheduled for 8:55pm EST tonight, with a spot in the Regional Final on the line.

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