'We came to play': Duke softball blasts South Carolina for 50th win, advances to Super Regional

Duke softball gathers following the win against South Carolina.
Duke softball gathers following the win against South Carolina.

For the third straight year, Duke will be taking part in the Super Regionals. 

On Sunday afternoon, the Blue Devils finished off a smooth regional event in Durham, opening the floodgates late on South Carolina en route to a 10-1 victory to win three games on the weekend and become one of the final 16 teams standing. The team won its 50th game this season for the first time in program history. 

"We’re super excited to win another regional at home against a quality opponent and I'm super proud of the way this team just came out, competed and continued to get better as the game went on and really separated themselves and showed some dominance,” head coach Marissa Young said.

Due to the double-elimination format of the NCAA tournament, Duke (50-6, 20-4 in the ACC) found itself in the Regional Championship Sunday with a loss to give after handily defeating Morgan State and South Carolina in its first two contests of the regional. 

After starting ace Jala Wright in the first two games, Duke went with her dynamic counterpart in Cassidy Curd for this one, who was making her first outing since slamming the door on Florida State in the ACC Championship. As she has so many times in her young Duke career, Curd’s star shone brightest under major pressure, as the sophomore was spectacular through 4.1 innings, only allowing three hits and striking out six. 

Duke put the game away in the top of the seventh, as South Carolina (36-24) loaded the bases with no outs and simply ran out of stopping power. Ace Alana Vawter seemed to be running on empty, and the sputtering came in the final inning, as a wild pitch and a single made it 4-1. Gisele Tapia added another on a single and this one was all but sealed. If there was any doubt, Amiah Burgess had a bases-clearing triple to extend the lead to seven to rub salt in the wound. 

Outside of the initial threat to begin the game, neither team could find any juice early, as Curd and Vawter both worked their way through the opposing lineup with relative ease. With the wind blowing at high speeds back towards the crowd in the stands, no ball seemed to have quite enough pop to break this game open. 

But sometimes when the ball isn’t flying, you find other ways to get the job done. Duke did just that in the top of the fourth, as the Gamecocks opened the door for the visitors to get the first score of the day. A blooper from Tapia started the party, and an errant throw on a ground ball from Jada Baker gave the Blue Devils two runners in scoring position with no outs. 

“They're tough and they're resilient. I think this time of year, you have to expect it, you're facing great pitching, you're facing great teams, it's not going to come easy,” Young said.

From there, Young’s team capitalized, as Francesca Frelick roped a single to center that brought in two runs after a tight play at the plate, breaking the previous scoreless tie. However, any further progress was quickly halted, as a double play and a strikeout brought a much needed end to the inning for South Carolina. 

However, the Blue Devils repaid the favor in the bottom half of the inning. After a leadoff double to start the inning, Curd made a throwing error to first on a bunt attempt, allowing the first run to cross and the Gamecocks to simply replace the runner at second. From there though, Curd was able to settle in and pick up three straight outs to keep it 2-1 after four. 

After issuing a walk in the bottom of the fifth, Curd exited the ballgame, and it was Wright’s turn to go once again. The Charlotte native promptly came in and handled business, getting two straight outs and putting Duke six outs away from another trophy. 

The Blue Devils, who were playing as the visitors in this one, had a chance to strike early. A single from Claire Davidson backed up by two walks set up Duke with the bases loaded and two outs for Tapia in the top of the first, but the graduate student went down swinging to stifle the early opportunity. 

Up next, Duke will face Missouri in a best-of-three series for a chance to advance to the Women’s College World Series. 

“We came to play. Duke is here whether the NCAA likes it or not, whether the other teams like it or not, we're here and we're ready to win,” Burgess said. 


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