In the second to last game of the Columbia Regional, the South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Liberty University Flames, 2-0 and brought themselves just one win away from punching their ticket to the Super Regional this weekend.
Thirty minutes following South Carolina’s first win over Liberty in the tournament, the Gamecocks and Flames met again in a do-or-die matchup in which South Carolina shut out Liberty again, 5-0.
“After the way last night ended, I went to bed with such a great feeling," Smith said. “Once we survived last night and had ‘Whitey’ win the game for us, it was just a feeling of 'we’re going all out today' and I knew our players weren’t going to leave anything on the field. I really feel like that hit last night gave us the momentum to carry us through two games today.”
With two victories today, the Gamecocks have snapped Liberty’s 19-game winning streak and have improved to a 49-15 record on the season. South Carolina has also tied its best record since 1997, which was the last season the Gamecocks reached the Women’s College World Series.
On top of reaching milestones when it came to the team’s record, the Gamecocks also fought through the elimination bracket after falling to Liberty on Saturday.
“I am so proud of this team,” head coach Beverly Smith said. “They set their sights ... they had goals and getting to Super Regionals was one of them. All of that contributed to their hard work, their work ethic and their ability to continue to believe in each other. And I think it showed up this weekend. We were down to our last out last night and the team came back and fought through two tough games today. We beat a very good Liberty team, and like I said, I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
South Carolina sent pitcher Dixie Raley to the mound this afternoon for the first game, and over seven innings she threw 117 pitches with a 1.94 ERA. In the second game, South Carolina started pitcher Cayla Drotar, who pitched a complete shutout with 87 pitches and a 2.03 ERA.
In the top of the third inning in the first matchup, pitcher Cayla Drotar sent the ball far beyond the left field wall to give South Carolina a 2-0 lead over Liberty with a two-run home run for her tenth home run of the year. Drotar’s two-run homer was the only scoring play in the first matchup between the two teams on Sunday.
Krystan White made the score 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning of the second matchup, in favor of the Gamecocks on a somewhat controversial call. Liberty's head coach Dot Richardson spent some time discussing White’s run with the three umpires officiating the game. The call on the run was ruled safe, and discussion ensued when a bouncing ball made it into the glove the same time as the fielder and runner.
Late in the bottom of the sixth, the runs kept adding up for South Carolina. White struck again for the Gamecocks with an RBI double to bring the score up to 2-0. Then, Mackenzie Boesel drove two runs and Cayla Drotar contributed a single run to bring the score to 5-0.
“I live for moments like that,” Drotar said. “Being a pitcher, you don’t really get a lot of defense ... so I think I got too happy, but we got it out, so it’s good.”
For the first time since playing at Northwestern University in 2007, the Gamecocks have advanced to Super Regional play. South Carolina will play in the tournament starting May 24 to 27 with location and teams participating in the next round to be announced.