Before Wednesday’s game at Carolina Softball Stadium in Columbia, Valerie Cagle had never played in a rivalry game, even in high school. That is because she did not go to a high school and was homeschooled instead.
But it did not take long for the second-year freshman to introduce herself to the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry. With the 16th-ranked Tigers already in front by a run and with a runner on base in the top of the first inning, Cagle took the first pitch from Cayla Drotar and sent it out of the stadium in left field.
The two-run blast gave the Tigers an early three-run lead in the first ever softball meeting between the two rivals as Clemson walloped the Gamecocks 6-0.
“I’ve never actually been a part of a rivalry before being homeschooled and playing travel ball you don’t really get to be a part of that,” Cagle said earlier this week. “So, I’m definitely excited to see what the rivalry is like.”
The Gamecocks (23-18) are probably not as excited.
Cagle not only owned them at the plate, but she also owned them in the circle too. The National Pitcher of the Week, limited Carolina to just three hits, while fanning nine batters and walking three in a complete game shutout.
Her best pitching came in the bottom of the fourth when the Gamecocks had runners on second and third with two outs. However, she struck out Katie Prebble on four pitches to end USC’s only threat of the night.
The Gamecocks did get two on with two outs in the sixth after Cagle hit a batter and walked another, but she induced Jordan Fabian into a ground ball to short to end the inning. She has now produced 30 2/3 scoreless innings in a row.
At the plate, Cagle went 2-for-5 with the home run and the 2 RBIs. The freshman has hit successfully in 13 straight games.
The Tigers (33-4) sealed their 13th consecutive victory by adding three runs in the top half of the sixth inning. After Cammy Pereira led off the inning with a hit to right field, McKenzie Clark homered on a 1-1 pitch from USC reliever Leah Powell.
Ansley Gilstrap, who is from the Columbia area, then scored on a sacrifice fly from Kyah Keller for the 6-0 lead.
Gilstrap had an RBI single in the first inning to score Clark with the first run. The senior finished the night 1-for-3 before having to leave the game due to an injury suffered after scoring in the sixth inning.
The Tigers return home on Friday at McWhorter Stadium where they will host NC State in a four-game series. First-pitch is set for 5 p.m. in Game 1.
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