The South Carolina softball team (19-7, 1-2 SEC) scored seven runs in the third inning Wednesday and that's all it needed to beat USC Upstate, 7-5, and remain undefeated at home this season.
The Gamecocks’ multiple-run inning included a grand slam from shortstop Krystan White and a two-run homer from right fielder Victoria Williams.
“Coming through their second at bats, everyone really made an adjustment to the pitcher. From our standpoint, it was really impressive how our batters made the adjustment,” coach Beverly Smith said.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Cayla Drotar made the start for the Gamecocks and was credited with the win. She gave up five runs and tallied two strikeouts over 4.2 innings pitched.
“I thought she did a good job. It certainly wasn’t her best performance, but I think it was good for her to be able to get some innings under her belt,” Smith said of Drotar. “She’s going to be a special player for us, so tonight it was great she could get some innings under her belt.”
USC Upstate (23-5) struck first in the first inning, with leadoff hitter Ansley Gilstrap getting hit by a pitch and stealing second to put herself in scoring position. First baseman Karla Beasley hit a one-out double to left field, which scored Gilstrap and lifted the Spartans to a 1-0 lead.
Leadoff hitter and starting pitcher Drotar got USC’s monstrous third inning underway with a single to left field, and leading hitter Kaylea Snaer followed with a one-out single up the middle. With runners aboard first and second, second baseman Mackenzie Boesel was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Sophomore left fielder Kennedy Clark singled through the left side to tie the game at 1-1 and keep the bases loaded. White cleared the bases with her second home run of the season, giving the Gamecocks a 5-1 advantage.
“Going in facing her today, I knew she was going to be tough, because we’ve played her previously and I hadn’t had much success against her, White said of USC Upstate starting pitcher Lexi Shubert.
“That at bat particularly, I was sitting change and I did get to full count there and I was just battling close. I saw a good pitch and took a swing and it worked out in my favor. It definitely felt good and felt good to get some runs on the board.”
But the Gamecocks' scoring didn’t stop there.
In the next at bat, center fielder Tiara Duffy singled to left field and the Spartans brought in left-handed reliever Erin Hill. With Duffy aboard, Williams crushed a long home run to center field, putting USC up, 7-1.
The Spartans showed their resiliency in the fourth inning and after back-to-back singles from Millete and Obier, Alicia Dorgan homered to left field to cut USC’s lead to three. Trailing 7-4, USC Upstate scored another run in the fifth inning on Millete's RBI double to left center.
With the score 7-5 in the fifth, senior pitcher Nickie Blue came in to relieve Drotar. She tossed 2.1 nearly flawless innings, striking out six, giving up zero runs and earning the save.
“Nickie (Blue) comes in and he’s such a seasoned veteran,” Smith said. “You can see the presence she comes in with. She can really close the door on a team.”
The Gamecocks will continue their five-game homestand with a three-game series against No. 2 Florida. Led by coach Tim Walton, the Gators are 22-1 overall, 2-0 in SEC play and have four pitchers with ERAs under 1.00. Game one of the series will begin at 7 p.m. Friday at the Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field.
“I feel really good,” White said. “We’ve faced really any pitching staff. We’ve got slow and spinning and we’ve faced hard (pitching), so just knowing we can handle anything they bring to us and using that as we go into the weekend.”