PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO ---- No. 9 South Carolina closed out a hard-fought victory over Duke in 3-2 win Friday night at Nancy Almarez Stadium. Freshman Haley Simpson collected her first career hit in the top of the sixth to give the Gamecocks the eventual 3-2 win.
Carolina led from start to finish in a thrilling contest in front of a capacity crowd in Puerto Vallarta.
The Gamecocks scoring effort started in the top of the first as Jana Johns stole third and eventually scored on a throwing error from the Duke catcher to put Carolina on top 1-0 through one.
Kenzi Maguire posted her second multi-hit performance through three games with singles in the first and second inning to spark the Gamecock offense early. Kelsey Oh (1-1) looked strong in the circle early, as well, posting three straight-scoreless innings to open the contest and give the Carolina offense time to find itself.
Kennedy Clark continued the scoring in the top of the third, sending a bullet down the line in left to score Johns from first to extend the lead to 2-0 in favor of South Carolina.
Duke lived up to its scrappy play its become known for as it produced a run in the bottom of the fourth to cut the Carolina lead to 2-1 but the Gamecocks weren't done there.
In her first career start and third-career at bat, Simpson sent a shot up the middle in the top of the sixth to score pinch-runner Lauren Stewart from second to give the Gamecocks the third run they'd eventually need to close out the Blue Devils.
Duke added a run in the bottom of the frame to make things interesting but Cayla Drotar, who had come on in relief for Oh in the bottom of the fifth, earned the save while stranding the would-be tying run on first.
Oh went 5.2 innings in her first victory of the season, striking out five Duke batters while allowing just one extra-base hit. Drotar went 1.1 inning with just one hit allowed and a strikeout to earn her first save of the season.
Clark and Maguire both shined at the plate as both finished with two hits, while Clark produced an RBI. Drotar, Lindsey and Simpson also had hits in the game.
- Carolina earned win No. 1,500 yesterday in the victory over BYU while tonight's was No. 280 for head coach Beverly Smith.
- Four different Gamecock (Katie Prebble, Madison Owens, Haley Simpson and Jordan Fabian) saw their first action at South Carolina in the first three games. All four earned at least one start (their first), as well.
- South Carolina has had five different players (Kenzi Maguire, Jana Johns, Alexis Lindsey, Kennedy Clark and Katie Prebble) produce multi-hit games thus far.
- The Gamecocks moved to 28-10 in opening weekend games under Beverly Smith following Friday's game.
- The Gamecocks halted the first losing streak of the season at just one game. Carolina lost consecutive games just four times in 2018.