South Carolina’s first day in the NCAA Tournament lasted two days, but the Gamecocks finally came away with a victory.
South Carolina beat UNC-Greensboro 3-0 in Carolina Softball Stadium to open its first home NCAA Regional since 2002. The game started Friday at 8:35 p.m. but didn’t end until 12:30 a.m. Saturday thanks to a two-hour rain delay.
“I was so excited to see the stands filled tonight,” Gamecocks head coach Bev Smith said. “It was a fantastic atmosphere and I just kept thinking, ‘I hope the weather holds off.’ Unfortunately, the rain ran some fans away.”
A crowd of 1,451 watched the first three innings but the number had been cut down to a few hundred by the time it ended 3:55 after the first pitch. The Gamecocks advanced to play Big South champion Liberty (48-12) at 2 p.m. Saturday. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but the start time was pushed back due to the late finish of the first games. Liberty beat Hofstra 2-0 in 10 innings in Friday’s early game.
It was the first rain delay of the season for the Gamecocks (46-14). South Carolina, the No. 9 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, is looking for its first Women’s College World Series appearance since 1997. It would be the fourth trip in school history.
UNC-Greensboro (46-12) will play Hofstra at 4:30 p.m. in an elimination game.
South Carolina’s game resumed at 11:29 p.m. and South Carolina immediately extended its lead to 3-0 on a two-out, two-RBI single by Jana Johns that scored Morgan Davis and Kennedy Clark. Johns dove into first base and was called safe, prompting a heated reaction from UNC-Greensboro coach Janelle Breneman.
“I was just trying to do whatever I could for my team,” Johns said.
The Gamecocks took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a bases-loaded, infield single by Alexis Lindsey that scored Jana Johns.
South Carolina starter Kelsey Oh struck out a career-high 13 batters (the most by any USC pitcher this year).
“Kelsey Oh pitched a fantastic game on the mound,” Smith said. “Anytime you can get a shutout against such a good offensive team, it’s a feather in your cap.”
Liberty 2, Hofstra 0
In the first game of the day, Liberty scored the game’s only two runs in the top of the 10th to get a 2-0 victory. The Flames (48-12) got a solo home run from catcher Kaitlin McFarland to take a 1-0 lead and then added an insurance run later in the inning.
“My focus this week was to be able to hit hard line drives, hard ground balls,” McFarland said. “That last at bat that’s all I was thinking, not trying to be a hero, just trying to get on base for my teammates.”
The Pride (40-13) is now one loss from elimination.
“Our backs are against the wall now, but that’s how we like to play and we’ll come out and try to play our best tomorrow,” second baseman Michaela Transue said.
Game 3: Liberty vs. South Carolina, 2 p.m. (WatchESPN)
Game 4: Hofstra vs. UNC-Greensboro, 4:30 p.m. (WatchESPN)
Game 5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser, 7 p.m. (WatchESPN)
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 4 p.m. (WatchESPN)
Game 7: Rematch of Game 6, if necessary (WatchESPN)