Two upstart programs battle it out for ACC supremacy

Two upstart programs battle it out for ACC supremacy

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Two upstart programs battle it out for ACC supremacy

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Clemson plays in its first ACC Championship Game at noon in the ACC Softball Tournament at Ulmer Stadium in Louisville against a familiar foe and will rely on its most valuable weapon in its first title game.

The top-seeded Tigers blanked Virginia Tech 2-0 on Friday afternoon behind a stellar performance by Valerie Cagle in the circle and at the plate.

Meanwhile No. 3 seed Duke rallied with two runs in the top of the seventh inning later in the day to upset Florida State 4-3 to set up the championship matchup between Clemson and the Blue Devils for the ACC Tournament title.

Head coach John Rittman knows the Tigers face a tough test against Duke and is up for the challenge in what looks to be another barn burner in Louisville.

“Duke is a young program like us, but very good. We had a great series with them earlier this year,” he said. “We know it will be a great game and we are just looking forward to represent Clemson and play for a championship.”

The two teams split an outstanding series at the end of March at McWhorter Stadium that snapped Clemson’s 17-game win streak at the time and later Duke’s 20-game win streak in the same weekend.

The Blue Devils got the best of Clemson in a double-header on March 26 and won 2-0 in the first matchup and 3-1 in the second. But the Tigers bounced back on the 27th and 28th with 4-1 and 4-2 victories.

This is the first year since 2013 that Florida State has not won the ACC Softball Championship and the first time since 2012 the Seminoles have not played in the championship game.

Now the two upstarts with Duke in its third full season and Clemson in its first full season are making their first appearances in the title game and have shaken up the conference landscape.

Clemson will likely rely on its trusted ace in Valerie Cagle who is now 26-4 this season with a 1.28 ERA.

Rittman has complete confidence in Cagle to pitch a third straight day after back-to-back shutouts in the tournament to reach the championship game.

“No question. In fast pitch softball pitching three games in a row is not that big of a deal,” Rittman said. “Certainly, we’ll keep an eye on Valerie and see how she is doing tomorrow.”

The Clemson coach feels Cagle is hitting a new stride in the postseason after a week off for final exams before the Syracuse series last weekend.

“Valerie is on a roll right now, she’s well rested and she’s really pitched well in the last two ball games,” Rittman said. “There have been some stressful innings, but she has pitched well and is really hitting her groove after taking a few days off for finals week.”

Today’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Photo courtesy of ACC Communications

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