In extra innings, it is always good to have the top your lineup due up. For South Carolina, the trio of Kenzi Maguire, Mackenzie Boesel and Jana Johns ended a deadlock between the Gamecocks and UNCG Sunday in the final game of the Carolina Classic at Beckham Field.
Maguire led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to right-center, Boesel bunted her over to third and Johns smacked a single to the right field wall for the first walk-off of the year with the Gamecocks (4-0) winning, 3-2.
“Kenzi Maguire made me comfortable in the ninth,” South Carolina head coach Beverly Smith said. “That’s what we needed. Just a solid leadoff on, and to be able to lead off with a double really set the table. I was very confident at that point. I knew Mac Boesel would get the bunt down, and we had a shot with Jana and [Cayla Drotar] for a sac fly situation.
“A leadoff double changes the ballgame, for sure.”
The Spartans (1-2) got on the board first in the first inning. After the first two batters reached base after being hit by a pitch, UNCG was able to scratch a run across against Drotar.
Drotar helped her own cause in the bottom half of the inning. After Johns was hit by a pitch, she trotted home on a two-out double by Drotar to tie the game.
After a scoreless second, UNCG retook the lead on leadoff home run to start the third.
Drotar then found herself in a jam after an uncharacteristic throwing error from Boesel and a walk gave the Spartans two on with one out. Smith came out to talk to her starter. Whatever she said worked as Drotar induced a groundout before getting a strikeout to retire the side. Drotar then went on to retire five of the next six batters she faced.
“It was just a small adjustment for her,” Smith said. “Sometimes with pitchers you just have to get them right back on the track.”
After Drotar got her team back into the dugout with a 1-2-3 fourth, Kassidy Krupit used that momentum to hammer a ball over the left-wall wall for her first home run as a Gamecock that tied the game at 2.
“I was pumped,” Krupit said. “I was so excited coming into the at-bat, coming into this game. I just knew. Hit something hard and something would happen. I was just trying to hit something hard.”
South Carolina had chances to score more in the inning when Madison Owens and Haley Simpson hit back-to-back singles, but the Gamecocks couldn’t scratch a run across. South Carolina left 10 runners on base.
In the top of the sixth, Smith made a pitching change, bringing in Kelsey Oh to pitch for the third time in the weekend. After a leadoff walk, Oh struck out the side, all swinging, to get the team back in the dugout.
Oh and Drotar allowed just two hits in the game. Oh had a spectacular game again, striking out eight batters in just four innings to earn the win. She is now 3-0 on the season with an ERA of 0.47 and 22 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched.
“KK pitched a very nice game only giving up one hit,” Smith said. “Kelsey really came in and shut the door for us. I’m pleased with the production we got out of both of them.”
The Gamecocks had runners on in both the sixth and seventh innings, but the Spartan pitching staff was able to keep the Gamecock offense at bay and send the game to extra innings.
While it is early in the season, a game like this will help the Gamecocks as the season progresses.
“We just have to find a way to win every game no matter what the circumstance is,” Johns said. “Some are going to be run rule, some are going to be tight, so we just have to be gritty and find a way to win no matter what.”