South Carolina softball was down to the end.
Down a run, two outs in the bottom of the seventh, their season just kept afloat by Jana Johns' walk.
Then, with two balls and a strike, Krystan White launched a ball deep into the windy Columbia night. Just like that, season saved for another day..
White's walk-off shot to right secured the dramatic 5-4 win against Hofstra in the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks saw a 3-0 lead become a 4-3 deficit before finally escaping with the win to eliminate the Pride (41-14).
USC (47-15) will face Liberty at 4 p.m. Sunday, needing to win back-to-back games to claim the first regional crown since 2007.
"I was just going to take it one pitch at a time," White said of her game-winning hit. "Jana getting on was huge for us there. Just trying to get on any way possible.
"I know daddy was there with me in that moment.
It's been a season heavy with emotional moments for White. Her father, Buck, died last November because of injuries sustained in a car accident. Gamecocks coach Beverly Smith said White hasn't been shy about sharing her feeling, and in that moment, the coach had it in mind.
"Immediately tears come to your eyes because you’re just so happy for the team in that moment," Smith said. "All of use knew her dad very well. And that’s what I said to the team at the end of the game. I said #BuckStrong. That’s something we’ve talked about all year long."
The Pride took their first lead in the top of the sixth with a two-run double from Sarah Edwards, but USC had put itself in that position with missed chances. The Gamecocks left nine on base in the first four innings, twice stranding the bases loaded.
The go-ahead hit was set up by a walk and then mishandled bunt to put two on.
USC had five consecutive outs after that, but did just enough in the final moments.
"At this level, anybody can come back at any time," Hofstra coach Larissa Anderson said. "(pitcher Sarah) Cornell threw ... a hundred-and-something pitches. So a hundred-and-something times, the game is on the line. If she leaves the ball and she makes one mistake, we know the ball can be hit out of the ball park."
South Carolina's offense wasted little time in getting to work early in the game, as pitcher Cayla Drotar hit a two-run home run in the first inning to help her own case. The Gamecocks added a run in the second with a bases-loaded walk, and left the bases loaded in the second and third innings.
The early damage was enough to chase Hofstra pitcher Sophie Dandola, who had thrown a 56-pitch perfect game to eliminate UNCG earlier in the afternoon. She lasted only an inning before giving way to Cornell, who threw 135 pitches.
The Pride struck back, however, with solo shots from Brittany Allocca and Nikki Michalowski.
In the circle, Drotar allowed only three base runners in five innings, but gave way to Kelsey Oh in the sixth. Oh was charged with Hofstra's third and fourth runs, and Dixie Raley (13-4) picked up the win with a perfect top of the seventh.
The Gamecocks will have to turn around quickly to face a team that bedeviled them in Saturday’s first game. Julia DiMartino struck out nine Gamecocks in a 3-1 win and will likely get a serious amount of work as her team looks to win one game in two tries.
South Carolina's players gave the impression they believed they'd not been their best against the Flames, but tho team also wanted to savor the drama of yet another emotional moment.
"Time and time again, this has happened for us," Smith said. "We have won a lot of games late, and I think that has given us a lot of our confidence this season. We never feel like we’re out of the game.
"We were really needing just some clutch hits, someone to step up today. Thankfully it happened to be Whitey in the bottom of the seventh."
Who: South Carolina (47-15) vs. Liberty (49-12)
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Beckham Park