The Clemson softball team is in the middle of a whirlwind week after winning the ACC regular season Championship this past Sunday at Syracuse.
On Tuesday the Tigers were awarded a host of conference awards. Head coach John Rittman was named ACC Coach of the Year, Valerie Cagle earned ACC Player of the Year and ACC Freshman of the Year and nine players made the all-conference team.
Rittman credited the culture surrounding the program for all of the Tigers’ success in their first full-season in the ACC.
“We have a great coaching staff, a great support staff and a great administration that gives us everything we need to compete at the highest level,” Rittman said in-person at McWhorter Stadium in Clemson on Tuesday. “Then, when you have a group of players that believe in what they are doing, it makes this opportunity a possibility.”
Cagle also became the first player in conference history to earn Freshman of the Year as well as Player of the Year honors.
She finished the regular season with a 24-4 record in the circle and a 1.15 ERA with four saves. Cagle also leads the Tigers in batting average at .420 with a 1.322 OPS and 40 RBIs.
“Valerie Cagle to be Player of the Year in her first full season is so special, she is such a hard worker and obviously a very gifted softball player,” Rittman said. “But to see her having the success she has had is something special. If you have seen her play in person it’s quite a show.”
It has certainly been a crazy week for Cagle, but her coaches help put all of her accomplishments in perspectives as the Tigers enter the postseason.
“One of our coaches put it really well this week that we aren’t supposed to be here,” Cagle said. “So it gives us the opportunity to really enjoy it because we aren’t expected to do any of this and there is that much less pressure on us.”
Ansley Gilstrap is the only Clemson player to experience the NCAA Tournament from her time at USC Upstate. The Spartans played in the Auburn Regional after winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament in her freshman campaign in 2016.
Clemson was announced as one of the 20 potential host sites for a regional and hopes to lock up on of the 16 regionals with a solid performance in the ACC Tournament.
Cammy Pereira feels the newness of postseason play in the Tigers’ clubhouse plays to the team’s advantage.
“This is definitely new territory for all of us,” she said. “It’s something we are more excited then worried about, but there is a lot of newness and maybe that will play to our advantage because we don’t know what’s coming and aren’t hyping ourselves up too much.”
Clemson plays in the ACC Tournament on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Ulmer Stadium in Louisville, Ky. The top seeded Tigers play No. 9 Georgia Tech, who defeated No. 8 Syracuse on Wednesday.