LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In another high-stakes pitchers’ duel Duke defeated the Clemson Tigers 1-0 at Ulmer Stadium in Louisville on Sunday to win the program’s first ACC Softball Championship.
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 in the top of the sixth inning.
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 into 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.
The Blue Devils did not hit a ball out of the infield in the sixth, but found a way to win. Clemson head coach John Rittman knows sometimes the game doesn’t break in your favor.
“The way they scored their run is tough to take, they didn’t hit a ball out of the infield and scored a run,” Rittman said. “That happens sometimes, those are the breaks and we have gotten a lot of them this year and didn’t today.”
Valerie Cagle pitched her third consecutive complete game on Saturday and gave her team every opportunity to win as she locked up ACC All-Tournament Team honors.
She pitched a complete game to put the Tigers in position and allowed one run on two hits with two walks and 13 strikeouts, but the bats ran cold. Cagle finished the ACC Championships with 34 strikeouts in the three games.
“Valerie pitched another outstanding game and gave us every chance to be in the game and every opportunity to win the game,” Rittman said.
Clemson (42-6) threatened in the bottom of the fourth with two runners on and one out thanks to a leadoff single by Marissa Guimbarda and a throwing error by Duke pitcher Shelby Walters that allowed Cammy Pereira to reach first.
But Walters beard down and got Kyah Keller to pop up to second and Morgan Johnson to ground out to the circle to end the inning.
In the top of the fifth Duke (42-10) got some life when Kristina Foreman was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then Caroline Jacobsen was intentionally walked to put two on with two outs.
But Cagle stood strong and struck out pinch hitter Sydney Bolan to end the threat.
In the top of the sixth inning, Duke got two runners on with no outs thanks to a infield single by Deja Davis and a walk by Gisele Tapia. Then, after a wild pitch moved the runners over, Kamryn Jackson came through for the Blue Devils with a ground out to short that scored Davis and gave the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead.
Peyton St. George entered the game in relief for Duke in the bottom of the sixth and struck out the side. She closed out the game to earn the save with two innings pitched with no hits, three strikeouts and no walks to finish off the Tigers.
Shelby Walters earned the win for the Blue Devils. She pitched five scoreless innings and gave up two hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
Now the Tigers turn their attention towards the NCAA Tournament and Rittman hopes his team flushes this loss quick because they have a lot left to play for.
“Unfortunate loss for us, but we have to be able to flush this away, learn from it and get ready for NCAA Regionals,” Rittman said.
Clemson finds out its postseason fate on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPN2 during the NCAA Softball Tournament Selection Show, and hopes to be in position to host a regional at McWhorter Stadium in Clemson next week.
—Photo courtesy of ACC Communications
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