CLEMSON, SC - What a frustrating doubleheader! The first game was a classic pitchers' duel for the first 4 innings. Cagle was cruising in the circle, going 1-2-3 in 3 of the first 4 innings. However, temporary 1st baseman Madison May, who only plays there when Cagle is pitching, muffed a throw from Moore to put the leadoff batter on base to start the 5th inning. From that point on, it's like the Tigers unraveled and reverted back to last season's error-prone team. It might have even rattled Cagle, knowing how small the margin for error is against FSU, because she gave up a single after the error, and a sacrifice grounder scored the first run of the game. Not only that, but Moore made a mental error on a run down and threw the ball to 3rd instead of tagging the runner out, so the Noles had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs! They should have had one runner on 1st with no runs and 2 outs! If Cagle wasn't rattled on the first error, she probably was after that. The next batter hit a double to score 2 more runs, making it 3-0. If not for the error by May, it would have at worst been 2nd and 3rd with no runs, and Cagle would have gotten out of the inning with the game still tied.
The 6th inning was more of the same. Logoleo made a throwing error, and that allowed the Noles to mount a two-out rally for 4 more runs. The Tigers hadn't made errors all season long. They had the nation's 4th best fielding percentage, and here they were making 3 big errors in 2 innings that resulted in all 7 of the Noles' runs! If the Tigers had played their normal error-free game defensively, the game would have gone scoreless into extra innings. It's a shame that the score was so misleadingly lopsided. Hopefully that won't hurt the Tigers' post-season resume, but it certainly bumped up Cagle's ERA, which was No.2 nationally going into the game.
Who knows what might have happened if not for the errors. Perhaps the Tigers would have won in extra innings on a walk-off hit and gone into the next game with all the momentum and confidence from having slayed the Noles for the first time. Instead, they went into game 2 frustrated and defeated, knowing they handed that game to FSU on a silver platter. Not only did they have to fight their own psyches, but they would have to face one of the best pitchers in the country, Sandercock, in game 2. She was dominant as usual, and Cagle's leadoff HR in the 4th was the Tigers' only run of the day. It was her 14th of the season, moving her to 3rd nationally. The Tigers scored 4 runs off Sandercock down in Tallahassee last season but managed just 3 hits in this one.
The losses snapped the Tigers' 23-game win streak and 29-game home win streak. They are now 37-3 on the season. Let's hope the Tigers can flush Thursday and flip the script on Friday! A win would salvage the series and give the Tigers the confidence that they can beat the Noles because the odds are that they will see each other again in the ACC Tournament, and the Tigers are now 0-6 all-time against FSU. The Tigers also need to avoid the sweep for their bid to host a Super Regional in the NCAA Tournament!
The series concludes Friday at 7:00. My post-game interview with Rittman is below!