Ashton Rogers had no grand illusions as she stepped to the plate with a runner on base and her University of South Carolina Sumter softball team trailing Spartanburg Methodist College 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"I was just trying to …
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"I was just trying to make contact and get the run in," Rogers said.
Rogers made contact, plenty of it, to not only score Anna Tavares, but herself as well. Rogers hit a towering home run over the leftfield fence to cap a 7-run rally in the seventh and give the Fire Ants a 9-8 triumph at Patriot Park SportPlex.
The win gave USCS a split against the Pioneers, who won the first game 7-4.
The teams played another doubleheader on Saturday in Spartanburg. SMC won both games by the scores of 11-3 and 8-7.
"This was just a huge win for us," said Fire Ant head coach Adrienne Cataldo, whose team is 16-12 on the season and 6-4 in NJCAA Region X. "I wasn't too pleased with the way we played for 13 innings, but that last inning was great. That was just a tremendous effort."
SMC, which is 23-20 and 8-4, looked to have the game well in hand after posting three runs in the top of the seventh go up 8-2. USCS' half of the inning started with Alexis Lyles reaching on an infield single, but Spartanburg Methodist pitcher Emily Josey followed that by striking out Laurel Shaw.
Then the fun started.
Brooke Ward picked up her fourth hit of the game, a double to left-center to send Lyles to third. Jayla Cowell followed with her third hit, a 2-run single to make it 8-4, and she went to second on a throw home.
Cowell went to third on a wild pitch before Hailey Carter hit a ground ball to shortstop Kiersten Moore. Cowell initially broke for home, and Moore decided to throw behind her and try to get her going back into third instead of getting the out at first. Cowell beat the throw back, leaving runners on the corners.
Hannah Bettencourt hit a deep fly ball to left that leftfielder Alyssa Pennington dropped. That allowed Cowell to score and make it 8-5 and leaving runners on second and third. Kristen McKenzie dropped a single into right-center to score pinch runner Tamia Miller and send Bettencourt to third.
Emily Holmes grounded out to second for the second out, but driving in Bettencourt to make it 8-7. With McKenzie on third, Rogers took the second pitch from Josey and hit a high, deep fly ball to left. The only question was whether it was fair, and when the home plate umpire signaled home run, it set off a wild celebration.
"She had been pitching me inside the entire game," Rogers said of Josey. "I just took a step back and went with it."
Sumter finished with 13 hits, five of them in the final inning. Ward was 4-for-4 with a solo homer, while Cowell was 3-for-4 with two runs batted in. McKenzie had two hits and Holmes had two RBI.
"The girls came in in the seventh and did this on their own," Cataldo said. "I have the utmost confidence in each of my girls at the plate. We didn't execute that well offensively until the last game."
In the first game on Friday, the Fire Ants led 3-2, but gave up four runs in the fourth and never recovered.
Sumter had just five hits in the opener with Cowell and Rogers each picking up a double. Carter had two RBI.
While the two losses on Saturday dropped the Fire Ants behind Spartanburg Methodist to third place in the region, they still have an opportunity to win the region.
Sumter will play host to USC Union in a doubleheader on Tuesday at Patriot Park SportPlex. If it wins both of those game, it will travel to Louisburg Community College for a pair of doubleheaders next weekend with a shot at the region crown.
Louisburg is in first place.
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