During last weekend’s season-opening tournament in Texas, it had taken Maryland softball 13 innings to push a run across home plate — a second-inning score in the Terps’ third game, following two mercy rule losses.
But in Friday’s opener of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in South Carolina, coach Mark Montgomery’s squad struck first, with infielder Regan Kerr crossing the plate following a bases-loaded double-play.
The early lead wouldn’t last long, though, as the Tigers poured on runs late to beat the Terps, 5-1.
Maryland had a chance to add more runs on the board in the first inning, but Clemson’s defense and impressive pitching from Valerie Cagle kept the Terps to one run in the frame.
Kerr walked to lead off the game, and outfielder Amanda Brashear singled into center field. Infielder Anna Kufta followed with a single, loading the bases and putting early pressure on the Tigers.
But Taylor Liguori hit a grounder to second and both she and Kufta were thrown out, although Kerr scored on the double play to make the score 1-0.
Terps pitcher Courtney Wyche struck out the side in the first inning to keep the Tigers off the board, but Maryland wouldn’t come back to add onto its lead.
In the second, outfielders Shelby Younkin and Campbell Kline both singled, setting up runners on the corners with one out. But Younkin was caught stealing home, giving the Terps their second out, while Kline was called for interference for colliding with Clemson shortstop Hannah Goodwin, which ended the Terps’ turn at the plate.
Clemson threatened in the second, with MK Bonamy walking before advancing to second on a groundout and to third on a single from Goodwin. And the Tigers loaded the bases once a dropped-third strike got past catcher Gracie Voulgaris. But solid defense from Wyche in the circle ended the frame, throwing out JoJo Hyatt after a comebacker.
After a scoreless third inning for both teams, Clemson came up big in the fourth. Marissa Guimbarda opened the inning with a homer, knotting the score at 1. Carlee Shannon singled and stole second base to put herself in scoring position. After a strikeout for Abi Stuart, Alia Logoleo tripled to the gap, batting Shannon in to make the score 2-1 for the Tigers.
Trinity Schlotterbeck replaced Wyche in the circle, but Hyatt bunted in Logoleo from third, putting Clemson ahead, 3-1.
Maryland went three up, three down in the fifth while Clemson had another impressive offensive showing. Bonamy singled through the left side and Guimbarda was hit by a pitch before Goodwin singled to load the bases with no outs.
Taylor popped up to Kerr at shortstop for the first out and Logoleo hit a comebacker to Schlotterbeck, who threw Bonamy out at home to prevent a run. But Hyatt singled through the first- and second-base gap, sending pinch runner Arielle Oda home to make the score 4-1 in Clemson’s favor.
While Maryland got a runner on base in both the sixth and seventh innings, the team couldn’t chip into the Tigers’ edge. And Clemson added on in the sixth after Amelia Jarecke took over in the circle for Schlotterbeck and promptly walked Grace Mattimore.
Cagle singled, Bonamy struck out swinging and Oda walked, loading the bases. Goodwin reached on a fielder’s choice; Cagle was thrown out at third and Mattimore scored, putting the Tigers ahead by four. Taylor lined out to left field, ending the inning.
Cagle pitched all seven innings of a game that lasted almost three hours. Between her consistent pitching and Clemson’s fielding skills, the Terps couldn’t get more than one run on the board.
Maryland got on base consistently throughout the game, but Clemson’s defense held them there, dropping Montgomery’s squad to 1-5 overall. The Terps play Clemson again Saturday in the second game of a doubleheader, beginning with Pittsburgh in the morning.