PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Clemson SID)- The fifth-seeded Clemson Softball team put the tying run on base in the seventh inning, but had the rally come up short in an 8-6 defeat to Florida State in the 2022 ACC Softball Championship Game on Saturday at Vartabedian Field in Pittsburgh and in front of a national audience on ESPN. Florida State, seeded third, scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead and held off Clemson in the seventh to improve to 52-5 on the season.
“So proud of our team and their effort,” said head coach John Rittman. “The battle that every game was this week and the way we came out and played was fantastic. What impresses me the most about this team is that we never give up, we just keep fighting. Today was a classic example of that, two teams going back and forth. It wasn’t the cleanest game by either team, but I loved the way our team fought back. Especially after the three-run home run. To put the winning run at the plate says a lot about our program. A lot of heart, a lot of character, and that’s going to bode well for us as we head into the next chapter of our season.”
The Tigers were aiming to knock off a top-five ranked foe for a second straight day after beating No. 2 and regular-season champion Virginia Tech 4-1 on Friday. Clemson fell to 39-15, but has an RPI rating within the top ten nationally, and is line to host an NCAA Regional at McWhorter Stadium for the first time when selections are announced on Sunday night.
McKenzie Clark, Alia Logoleo and Valerie Cagle earned All-Tournament honors for the Tigers, who have now advanced to the ACC Championship Game in each of its first two seasons.
Clark matched a career-high with four hits in the contest, while Logoleo went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Clemson outhit Florida State, 10-6, on the day.
The Tigers struck first as Cammy Pereira, who led off by reaching on an error, came around to score on a single to third base and ensuing throwing error off the bat of Clark. The Seminoles committed two errors in the inning, despite entering the game as the top fielding team in the nation by percentage.
Florida State countered in the bottom of the first, plating three off Cagle on a trio of singles.
Clemson wasted little time striking back in the second inning. After loading the bases, Maddie Moore lifted a sac fly to left to score Carlee Shannon. After Pereira reached again to re-load the bases, Clark hammered a ball down the left field line to score a pair and give the Tigers a 4-3 lead. Kalei Harding struck back in the second with a long solo shot to dead center, her 15th homer of the season, to knot it at 4-4.
Grad transfer leftfielder Sam Russ led off the fourth inning with a deep homerun to right-center to grab the lead back for the Tigers. The longball was Russ’s third of the season, and her first since going yard 26 games ago at Duke on Mar. 20.
After Russ went deep, the Seminoles went to Kathryn Sandercock (28-1, 1.38 ERA) in the circle, and the righty retired five of the next six. Logoleo and Russ would each single to lead off the sixth inning, but Sandercock retired the next three batters to remain unscathed.
Florida State exploded for four runs in the sixth inning on just one hit to take an 8-5 lead. First, they knotted the game at 5-5 on a sac fly to center. After a pair of walks, Mack Leonard, the Seminoles’ starting pitcher and cleanup hitter, hit a 1-2 Cagle pitch out to right-center to give Florida State an 8-5 advantage.
Clark led off the top of the seventh with her career-high-tying fourth hit of the ballgame and moved up to send on a wild pitch. After a Cagle groundout, Guimbarda singled off Sandercock to put runners on the corners with one out. After Aby Vieira popped out to third base, Logoleo took the first pitch she saw for a hard single to left, scoring Clark to cut the deficit to 8-6. Russ lined out to short to end the rally.
“A lot of experience going forward as a young program,” continued Rittman. “We’ve been in this game twice, and that alone is an accomplishment. We definitely want to get over the hump and win a championship. When you get into these tournament games, it’s great preparation for next weekend. We’re pretty confident we’re going to be able to host a regional at home, and that’ll be a first for our program.”
Up NextThe Tigers will wait to see if McWhorter Stadium is selected as one of 16 host sites for an NCAA Regional during the Selection Show, which is scheduled for Sunday, May 15 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Clemson is ranked 8th in the most up-to-date RPI.