USC Softball Takes NCAA Regional Opener

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AUSTIN, TX (USC SID) -- Junior designated player Ashlyn Masters drove in all six Gamecock runs, including coming through in the seventh, as South Carolina (33-23) downed Houston (40-19) in the first game of the Austin Regional in the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Red & Charlene McCombs Field.

Masters came up with runners at second and third in the seventh and chopped a double down the left-field line, allowing both runners to score and regaining the lead for South Carolina at 6-4. That drove in junior second baseman Dana Hathorn and sophomore centerfielder Kristen Struett after the duo got a hit and a walk, respectively, to start the frame. They both moved into scoring position on junior right fielder Chelsea Hawkins’ grounder to third, setting up Masters’ second big hit of the day.

Masters gave the Gamecocks their first lead in the third with her first grand slam. With an 0-2 count, Masters drove one over the wall in left for her fourth homer of the year to hand the Gamecocks a 4-1 lead. That plated Hathorn and Struett after singles as well as Hawkins after she drew a walk. Hawkins fouled off seven straight balls in a 1-2 count and eventually drew a walk in a 14-pitch trip, setting up the Masters blast.

The Cougars took the initial lead in the first thanks to a Gamecock error. Kendra Cullum got a one-out single, and an error let Holly Anderson reach. A fly out to left retired Houston’s cleanup hitter for the second out. Kayla Holland poked a 3-1 pitch into shallow left center, enough to let Cullum score the unearned run.

Houston tied things in the sixth with three runs. With two runners on and two outs, freshman Katie St. Pierre singled through the left side, scoring pinch runner Jennifer Hooker to make it a 4-2 game. After Cullum drew a walk to load the bases, Anderson hit a 1-1 pitch through the left side to plate pinch runner Taylor Duplechain and St. Pierre to tie the game at 4-4. Hathorn dove to stop the grounder by Haley Outon, and the throw to senior shortstop Samie Garcia covering second beat Anderson to end the sixth.

Gamecock redshirt sophomore Julie Sarratt (12-7) got the hard-fought win, tossing six innings and giving up four runs, three earned, on 10 hits and two walks while fanning four. Diedre Outon (12-8) took the loss for Houston, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks in 4.2 innings of relief. She struck out three. South Carolina freshman Katie Marks picked up her second save of the year with a strikeout in an inning of relief.

Masters posted her second six-RBI game of the year, posting all the extra-base hits for either team in the 2-for-4 day. Hathorn went 3-for-4 with two runs, while Struett scored twice in a 2-for-3 day. St. Pierre, Holland and Diedre Outon all had two hits. Anderson drove in two, with Holland and St. Pierre both driving in one.

It’s the Gamecocks’ first win in NCAA Tournament play since the 2007 Columbia Regional, when the Gamecocks beat Oregon twice to claim the regional title to move into the team’s only NCAA Super Regional appearance in history.

With the win, the Gamecocks play in the 12 p.m. EDT game against the winner of the Texas/Army game later tonight.

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