If South Carolina's softball team wants to take its first regional title since 2007, it'll have to do it the hard way.
The Gamecocks could never solve Liberty pitcher Julia DiMartino on Saturday as they lost 3-1 to the Flames to face elimination at the Columbia Regional of the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina (46-15) will get Hofstra at around 7:30 p.m. after it knocked off UNCG 6-0.
"Certainly that wasn't the game we wanted to come out and play," Gamecocks coach Beverly Smith said. "But the great part of it is, our season isn't over. We're just going to take a different path."
Should South Carolina win Saturday night, it would need to take two against Liberty on Sunday.
Liberty (49-12) struck early, with a leadoff single, a two-out, two-base throwing error and a flare RBI single just inside the rightfield line from Sarah Robertson in the first inning. The Flames added an insurance run in the third with a one-out single from Kaitlin McFarland, and nearly added more before stranding the bases loaded.
Liberty scored once more in the fifth on an suicide squeeze play. USC catcher Alyssa Vanderveer looked the runner at third back, got the out at first and then couldn't make the tag after the runner broke for home again.
The Gamecocks scraped out their lone run in the bottom of the seventh and left the tying run on first base.
It was more than Liberty needed as USC couldn't get anything going against DiMartino (29-7). The junior from New York allowed only one baserunner in the first five innings striking out nine. After the game, Smith pointed out USC didn't get a single leadoff hitter on base.
"I thought we were taking our hacks," Gamecokcs catch Alyssa VanDerverr said. "But I thought we let some pitches go that we should've hit. But it is what it is. We're going to play hard next game and get to tomorrow"
DiMartino said she thought her team got in the heads of the Gamecocks.
USC started No. 1 arm Cayla Dortar (20-6), who lasted three innings and gave up seven hits.