Cayla Drotar left Friday’s game with a “right leg bruise” after taking a ball off her right knee, but seemed unaffected on Saturday as South Carolina's softball team beat Missouri 8-3 from behind to clinch the series.
Drotar homered in the bottom of the first to give the Gamecocks a 2-1 lead and had a very strong performance. Drotar would homer again four innings later to carry the momentum for South Carolina.
“Last night ... I couldn’t put pressure on [my knee], and it freaked me out,” Drotar said.
However, in today's game, the focus for Drotar was just to see the ball and hit it. She had to mentally block out the fear of her knee getting re-injured to focus on her performance in today's matchup.
Head coach Beverley Smith thought Drotar homering in the first was a great way for her to bounce back after her knee injury Friday. Smith hopes that Drotar will pitch tomorrow and continue to overcome her minor setback.
“I thought, ‘what a great answer,’” Smith said.
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Tigers struggled getting out of innings as their opponents hit .286 off of them with two outs. Smith referred to it as a “backbreaker” when a team can get hits with two outs.
“We think it’s a mentality.” Smith said. “When you can get hits with two outs ... we call it a gritty play.”
Another key component in the Gamecocks comeback effort was junior Dixie Raley, throwing five shutout innings after giving up a run in the first. Raley gave credit to the defense behind her after securing this shutout.
“We had a bunch of double plays, a bunch of diving ... just trusting my defense.”
Missouri made the competition interesting in the top of the seventh with a homerun to cut the lead to 8-3 with zero out. Despite Missouri's resistant efforts, Smith had confidence in her team to hang onto the lead. However, she blames herself for keeping Dixie in a little longer than she should have.
“The way we have been playing defense, I wasn’t worried,” Smith said. “I just think maybe I left Dixie in there too long. I probably should have put [Kelsey] Oh to start the seventh. Dixie had thrown a lot of pitches.”
With this win, the Gamecocks are now 36-11 and 10-7 in the SEC, adding to their season totals in wins both overall and in conference that have already eclipsed last year’s. The series against Missouri will wrap up Sunday with first pitch scheduled at 12 p.m.