South Carolina’s second ever Super Regional started off on the wrong foot, as the Gamecocks fell 5-2 to Arizona State on Friday after being held without a hit until the seventh inning.
Junior Dixie Raley got the start for the Gamecocks and struggled right out of the gate. Raley allowed back-to-back hits in the first inning and the Sun Devils took an early 1-0 lead. The Sun Devils were 23-1 for the season when they scored in the first inning. One inning later, Raley allowed a two-run homerun to Jade Gortarez.
Raley’s night came to an end with one out in the third after allowing back-to-back hits. Freshman Kelsey Oh came in for Raley and managed to strand both runners and get out of the inning.
Head coach Beverly Smith had high praise for her freshman pitcher in a midgame interview.
“She came in strong and just got some miss hits off the bat," Smith said. "I think it was good that we could miss some barrels that inning. “
A challenge that the Gamecocks faced was hitting the rise-ball off of Sun Devil pitcher Giselle Juarez.
“Hopefully you’ll see this, the second time around that we’ll be a little more stingy on her rise-ball," Smith said. "But we certainly need to hit some balls hard here and make something happen."
The Gamecocks did not make the needed adjustments, as they had a total of five baserunners all game long.
The Gamecocks also made a few defensive mistakes. Their previously stellar defense misplayed back-to-back bunts that gave the Sun Devils a 4-0 lead with no outs in the fourth. That lead was extended to 5-0 when Morgan Howe, who went 3-3 on the night with two RBIs, singled with two outs.
However, South Carolina would not go down without a fight, as Alyssa VanDerveer got her first hit of the NCAA tournament to start the seventh. On the next pitch, Kennedy Clark hit a two-run homer to right field to give the Gamecocks life. The comeback effort would end on three straight strikeouts by Jana Johns, Krystan White and Tiara Duffy.
The Gamecocks need to win the next two games in Tempe against the Sun Devils to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1997. The second game is slated for 9 p.m. on Saturday.