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Gamecocks softball season ends with wild NCAA tournament loss to defending champ FSU

When South Carolina softball was assigned the familiar trip to Tallahassee, Florida to open the NCAA tournament, it meant by nature a steep uphill climb. Florida State won the 2018 Women’s College World Series and came into this year’s tournament as the No. 4 team in the country with 51 wins.

The Gamecocks gave the Seminoles a game on Sunday while facing elimination, but in the end, they couldn’t prevent it.

South Carolina’s season ended with a 7-6 loss early Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks needed two wins to advance, but Florida State (54-8) held them off despite a Gamecocks rally.

Just after USC (38-19) went ahead, Florida State opened the top of the sixth with a double and a walk. USC got a pair of outs, but Makinzy Herzog hit a single to plate both runners and give FSU its final lead.

USC got its lead in the bottom of the fifth, stringing together a pair of hits and getting a sacrifice fly from Alyssa Kumiyama to plate Madison Owens.

Beverly Smith’s squad staged a rally in the bottom of the fourth inning, getting RBI singles from Cayla Drotar and Kenzi Maguire with two outs to tie the game. The Gamecocks almost took the lead, but Drotar was thrown out at home on Maguire’s hit, a close play at the plate.

USC was in 3-0 and 5-1 holes in the early going, a Maguire RBI single providing the only run early. Three FSU walks and a home run in the first two innings helped put USC in that hole.

But the Gamecocks got RBI hits from Drotar and Owens in the bottom of the third, chasing ‘Noles ace Meghan King, who came in with a 29-5 record (she eventually came back and got the save).

USC started Dixie Raley, who was chased after allowing five runs in two innings. Drotar (12-6) came in and tossed three scoreless innings, but FSU eventually got to her.

South Carolina had run through South Florida and Bethune Cookman to reach Sunday.

The Gamecocks’ 38 wins ties for the second-most in the Smith era and the program’s second-most since 2003. South Carolina will lose a pair of seniors in top hitter Kennedy Clark and Raley, the team’s No. 2 arm.