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Clemson softball starts season off hot, but falls in NFCA final.

The #5 Tigers are 4-1 on the young season.

Syndication: The Greenville News Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

As signs of spring weather teased much of the southeast this weekend, Clemson athletics kicked off the spring season of sports, including the #5 ranked softball Tigers heading to Clearwater, Florida, for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) tournament. Clemson got the season started Thursday night with a 12-0, run rule win over Missouri State. Starting pitcher Brooke McCunnin pitched three of the five innings and got the first win on the season, striking out five batters.

Game 2 saw the Tigers fall behind early, trailing the Indiana Hoosiers 1-0 after the first. Clemson took the lead in the third when Julia Knowler brought Valerie Cagle and Alex Brown home on a double. The Hoosiers got a run back in the fourth, but then a fifth inning Cagle double scored Brown to put the Tigers up 3-2, and that’s all they needed. Starting pitcher Millie Thompson got her first win of the year and Cagle got the save.

Saturday was a double header, with the Tigers starting their day off by facing Liberty. The Flames struck first, plated two runs, but Clemson struck back in the bottom of the inning manufacturing three runs. Clemson rolled on to a 7-2 win. Brooke McCubbin, who came in to pitch for Olivia Duncan in the second, earned her second win of the young season.

Saturday night brought out a huge prime-time game, broadcast nationally on MLB Network. The Clemson Tigers faced the Oregon Ducks. The two teams ended the first inning knotted up at one-a-piece. Trailing 2-1 in the 4th, Alia Logoleo brought in the tying run with this sweet squeeze bunt.

Maddie Moore later singled to center field in the inning to score Kennedy Ariail. The Tigers never looked back and took the game 3-2 from Oregon.

After a great run of four games in three days, the Tigers ran out of steam in Sunday morning’s championship game, facing the Tigers of Missouri. Mizzou delivered a huge blow in the first, plating three runs to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Millie Thompson came into relieve McCubbin in the first and Clemson pitching settled in, only allowing one more run all game. But unfortunately the Tiger offense looked sleepy on an earlySunday morning, only able to score 1 run when Alex Brown scored on an error. The Clemson Tigers fell to the Mizzou Tigers 4-1 for the team’s first loss of the season.

While it is always disappointing to not come home with the hardware, starting off the year 4-1 against great non-conference opponents is nothing to sneeze at. Clemson will return to play Wednesday against Wichita State in Mexico, as a part of the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, which will have the Tigers playing south of the border through next weekend.