CLEMSON SOFTBALL

Tigers top Troy to stay alive in NCAA Tournament
Clemson advances to a rematch with Alabama. (Clemson athletics photo)

Tigers top Troy to stay alive in NCAA Tournament


by - Correspondent -

The second-seeded Clemson softball team's offense came alive in the seventh inning facing elimination, as the Tigers defeated third-seeded Troy for the second time in as many days, 4-2. Clemson moves to Championship Sunday, where they will look to avenge their loss to No. 3 national seed Alabama on Sunday at 2 p.m. (ESPN2).

The Tigers will need to defeat the Crimson Tide twice in the championship round to advance to the program's first-ever Super Regional.

After going cold for most of the day, the Clemson offense finally found the bats in the seventh when they needed them most, scoring four runs on three hits in the top of the seventh and putting the ball in Valerie Cagle's glove in the circle to close the game out.

Troy scored a run in the bottom of the seventh but the redshirt freshman in the circle fought back to record the final two outs of the game and advance the Tigers to the championship round of the Tuscaloosa Regional.

"The toughest thing to do in a regional format is come back after a tough loss," Clemson head coach John Rittman said following the victory. "We used up a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy in that first game (the 6-0 loss to Alabama Saturday). To come back in that second game against a tough team against Troy and you don't make it to the championship game of a regional without a great pitching staff."

Clemson used a trio of pitchers in the elimination game. Millie Thompson started for Rittman in the circle and was replaced by Regan Spencer in relief in the fourth inning. Cagle replaced Spencer in the fifth and took the ball for the rest of the game and recorded the win, her 27th win of the season, and possibly the biggest one of the season.

Troy had an early chance in the bottom of the first, putting runners on first and second with two outs after back-to-back walks from Thompson in the circle. The true freshman got a groundout to get out of the inning and get the Tigers' offense back to the plate.

The Tigers responded with a chance of their own, putting runners on the corners with two outs looking to score the first run of the day. A groundout from the catcher, JoJo Hyatt, ended the threat and brought the defense back out to the field.

Clemson scored the first run of the game in the third, plating a run to take an 1-0 lead. The rally began with Casey Bigham reaching second on a throwing error by the shortstop and moved over to third the next batter after a wild pitch. Gilstrap drove in the run after slapping an infield single past the diving third baseman to plate the run.

Troy tied the game in the bottom half of the inning, executing a double steal and taking advantage of a Clemson throwing error to plate the run and tie the game at 1-all.

The Trojans threatened to take the lead in the home half of the fourth, putting runners on first and second with one out after back-to-back walks from Spencer in the circle. A huge double-play was turned by the Tigers' defense to get out of the jam and give the momentum back to Clemson heading to the plate.

Both teams had chances to score but could not plate a run as both teams headed to the seventh still tied at one in the elimination game.

Johnson led the top of the seventh inning off with a stand-up double to the left-center wall and two batters later was brought home by Clark who singled to the shortstop and the Tigers took the lead, 2-1.

Ansley Gilstrap added to the lead the next at-bat, singling off the pitcher and the ball took a weird bounce into the outfield which allowed Clark to run home and extend the lead, 3-1. Alia Logoleo drove in another run with two outs to add another insurance run to the lead.

Troy added a run in the bottom of the seventh, but with a runner on third and two outs, Cagle forced a fly out to right field to secure the win.

"We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit there and didn't make sure of an out," Rittman said of a play in the bottom of the seventh that extended the inning and what his message to his defense was during the mound visit. "I went out there to calm them down and told them 'Those two runners mean absolutely nothing.' I think we did a great job of keeping our composure and Valerie did a great job of that as well."

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