Prior to this evening’s Championship Game against Boston University, Clemson softball took care of business against Akron at McWhorter Stadium in the third game of the Clemson Classic.
Led by McKenzie Clark’s four-hit day, Clemson (10-3) hung onto a 10-5 victory over Akron. The Tigers, who were once up 6-0, had the Zips on the rope early, but a fifth-inning rally kept the game within reach for Akron.
Clemson jumped out to an early 5-0 lead thanks to Aby Vieira’s first career home run. After the Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half of the first, the true freshman catcher out of Mission Viejo (Calif.) unloaded on a 1-1 pitch for a grand slam to right-center field.
In the following inning, McKenzie Clark (4-4) made history. For her second hit of the day, the Tigers’ center fielder recorded the first inside-the-park home run in program history.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. The Zips eventually clawed back after starter Brooke McCubbin (2-1) was pulled following four scoreless innings. The right-hander out of Locust Grove (Ga.) allowed just three hits and struck out two, improving her earned run average to 1.13 on the year.
Rachel Gibson came in relief of McCubbin in the top of the fifth inning and was taken out of the contest before she could record an out. Clemson manager John Rittman came to get Gibson when it was 6-2.
By the time the inning was over, Akron had cut the deficit to just one run. In her short relief stint — Gibson was charged with four runs (three earned) —that was after Emma Whitfield gave up a two-run triple to Akron outfielder Angela Cirone.
Valerie Cagle, who pitched five scoreless innings and earned the win in the opening game of the classic, came in relief for the Tigers in the top of the sixth inning. Cagle (5-2) came in and gave Clemson a couple of much-needed clean innings, striking out three batters in the process.
After Cagle settled things down, the Tigers tacked on four more runs to take a 10-5 advantage. She pitched two scoreless innings and earned the save, giving Clemson some momentum before tonight’s championship game against Boston.
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