CLEMSON — Clemson used the good ole-fashioned squeeze play to knock off Pittsburgh, 3-2, Friday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, JoJo Hyatt executed a perfect bunt down the third base line and Valerie Cagle charged home from third with the winning run, as the sixth-ranked Tigers rallied for the one-run victory.
“The ultimate goal is to just have them die within the first three feet of the plate,” Hyatt said.
“It was huge just having the team come together and put it all together at the end,” she continued. “The crowd helped out big time. That was an amazing crowd tonight. To have their energy, and the atmosphere was incredible.”
Clemson (42-6, 14-4 ACC) trailed the Panthers 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs after Alley Miklesh and Cagle singled to get things started and Caroline Jacobson drew a walk.
After Alia Logoleo popped up to first base, Maddie Moore scored Miklesh with a drawn walk, setting up Hyatt with the game-winning bunt.
“It was a huge win,” said Clemson head coach John Rittman as the Tigers try to earn a top-eight seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament. “The biggest thing we are trying to tell our team right now is to just turn off the noise. It is about winning every game, obviously. You start worrying about postseason and seeding and you quit worrying about executing.
“We just got to take care of business every day. We know we have a tough opponent in Pitt this weekend. We got Liberty and Virginia Tech to close out the regular season. It is a cliché and an old one, but we are going to take it one game at a time and let the seeding happen.”
Execution was not an issue in the seventh, as Hyatt laid down a bunt that died a few feet up the line and just far enough away from any Panthers to make a play, allowing Cagle to come home for the win.
“That’s the goal,” Hyatt said after the game. “Inside you lay it down to third base, outside you lay it down to first base.”
Before the seventh inning, Pittsburgh pitcher Dani Drogemuller outdueled Cagle as the Panthers appeared poised for the upset. The sophomore held Clemson to seven hits and one run through six innings, while striking out six batters.
Cagle, who improved to 21-3 in the circle, allowed five hits and both runs were earned. She had four strikeouts, one walk and hit one batter.
Pitt (21-20, 3-12 ACC) got on the board first with a solo home run from Kayla Lane with no outs in the top of the third inning. The 3-2 offering from Cagle hit the camera deck in centerfield for a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers tied things up in the bottom frame after Logoleo singled down the right line to score Miklesh from third base.
The Panthers regained their lead in the top of the fifth inning. Following a one-out hit to left by Macy Hamilton, Lane doubled to the gap in leftfield, easily scoring Hamilton from second base for a 2-1 advantage.
Stat of the Game: Clemson was 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Player of the Game: Pitt’s Kayla Lane, who bats ninth in the lineup, was 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. She also drove in a second run in the fifth inning.
Key Moment: With the game tied at 2-2 and with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Hyatt laid down a well-executed bunt that dropped perfectly a few feet away from home plate and just barely away from the third base line. The squeeze play allowed Cagle to charge home with the winning run.
Up Next: Clemson will host Pitt in Game 2 of their series at noon on Saturday.
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