LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Though Clemson was unable to finish the job in the ACC Softball Championships on Saturday, pitcher Valerie Cagle showed everyone why she is the best player in the conference.
Cagle was outstanding in the Tigers’ 1-0 loss to Duke in the ACC Championship Game. She struck out 13 batters and allowed just two hits in a third consecutive complete game in the tournament.
“I could not be more proud of Valerie, she didn’t give up a run all weekend until today,” Clemson head coach John Rittman said after the game. “The way they scored their run is very frustrating, but that’s softball. But I’m proud of her efforts in the circle and at plate and the way she has carried herself.”
Cagle earned All-Tournament honors after pitching back-to-back shutouts against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech to reach the championship game. She finished the weekend with three complete games, two shutouts, one run allowed and 34 strikeouts.
The second-year freshman certainly made a strong case to be a finalist for a host of national awards and to the committees that decide on All-America teams.
Rittman used Cagle in all three games despite having two solid freshman behind her in Millie Thompson and Regan Spencer, which he said is a testament to Cagle’s performance in the tournament.
“Our pitching is outstanding, and we didn’t even have to use Millie Thompson or Regan this week because Valerie was so spectacular,” Rittman said. “And the other pitchers behind Valerie are very capable.”
The Blue Devils (45-10) scored the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth without hitting a ball out of the infield to claim their first ACC Tournament title.
Kamryn Jackson delivered for the Blue Devils with a groundball to short that scored Deja Davis from third to score the eventual game-winning run. Davis got on base when she tried a slap-bunt, but popped the ball into the air. The ball hit the chalk halfway between home and first and then bounced left in fair territory for one of the craziest hits recorded.
Davis then stole second base and moved to third on a wild pitch, all with no outs, to set Jackson up to drive in the winning run.
Saturday was a difficult game for Cagle who kept the Tigers in a position to win throughout the contest.
But senior Casey Bigham knows she doesn’t have to say a lot to motivate Cagle moving forward into the NCAA Tournament because she is such a fierce competitor.
“You don’t have to pump up or motivate Valerie very much,” Bigham said. “She did everything she could today with 13 strikeouts, so she gave us as a team every chance. I have no doubt she’ll come back and do the same thing for us again.”
Clemson learns its fate for the NCAA Tournament during the selection show on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.
—Photo courtesy of ACC Communications
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