MT. PLEASANT, S.C. - Sophomore outfielder Kristy Giragosian (Charlotte, N.C.) hit an RBI single to pull off the suicide squeeze play and send the College of Charleston softball team to a 3-2 walk-off victory over Western Carolina for the weekend series sweep on Sunday afternoon at Patriots Point.
Both teams went scoreless through five innings, prior to the Catamounts' (18-31, 3-18) two-run surge in the top of the sixth increasing the pressure on the Cougars (32-17, 11-9) to respond.
With the bases loaded, sophomore pitcher Stephanie Saylors (Easley, S.C.) came in relief of senior pitcher Alexa Datko (San Diego, Calif.), who had struck out 11 batters in 5.1 successful innings of work in the circle, including five consecutive strikeouts to start the game.
Similar to a two-out situation a day prior against the Catamounts, CofC responded in the clutch as freshman shortstop Lizzy Vaughn (Placerville, Calif.) knocked an RBI single up the middle to bring home freshman outfielder Carly Corthell (Reno, Nev.), who reached first and second on an error and wild pitch by WCU pitcher Katie King to make it 2-1 Catamounts.
Saylors threw two strikeouts and a ground out to third to get CofC out of the top of the seventh safely without a WCU score. Freshman third baseman Kelsey Hodgson (Woodstock, Ga.) led off the seventh with a double to set-up the come-from-behind rally by the Cougars. Hodgson was replaced by pinch runner Ashton Jarrett (Hanahan, S.C.) who was driven home by a Giragosian single to left field to tie things up at 2-2 and send the game into extra innings.
"All we talked about was executing," said CofC head coach Shelly Hoerner on the strategy behind the final-inning rally by the Cougars. "We obviously didn't play well today, but we will take this win. We never gave up. They scored their two runs and we were able to come back. Carly (Corthell) got on and Lizzy (Vaughn) scored her. Getting one run back right away in the bottom of the seventh helped us tie it up and give us the momentum."
After two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, the 10-inning rule came into effect (placing a runner at second base to start off each of the extra innings played after nine). WCU wasn't able to capitalize as the CofC defense held off the go-ahead run at second.
The Cougars used a suicide squeeze play with one out in the bottom of the 10th and senior centerfielder Kristi Woodall (Huntersville, N.C.), who was the last batter in the previous inning, advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Amanda Lonergan (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), who was tagged out at first to set-up the game-winning RBI by Giragosian at the next at bat.
"(Western Carolina's) Katie King pitched really well against us both days and we were trying to get the ball in play," Hoerner said. "Stephanie (Saylors) came in and did her job and we played good defense in the top of the 10th inning. I'm not a person to call squeeze bunts, but went with my gut. I knew a good pitch was coming and she (Giragosian) executed. It was a huge victory for us."
It marked CofC's longest game this season and first since playing 11-innings versus Furman a year ago on May 2, 2010 at Patriots Point. Saylors claimed the win and improved to 12-8 on the season. She allowed only two hits with two strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work in the circle.
The weekend victories put the Cougars back over .500 in Southern Conference play and in the top half of the standings having won nine of their last 11.
"We were kind of rusty this weekend, but it is nice to back over .500 in conference," Hoerner said. "We took the last 10 days off with Easter and to focus on final exams. We didn't play our best ball, but I give my team a lot of credit for their efforts this weekend."
The Cougars recorded their 20th-win at home this season and will close out their SoCon regular-season slate with a three-game road series at Samford (11-37, 7-14 SoCon) on May 5-6 at Bulldog Field in Birmingham, Ala. Thursday's doubleheader will begin at 5 p.m. (ET), while Friday's first pitch is set for 3 p.m. (ET).