Although they have a long way to go the Clemson softball team certainly showed the chip on its shoulder with a statement win to open the Tuscaloosa, Ala. Regional on Friday.
Clemson thumped Troy 8-0 on Friday in five innings at Rhoads Softball Stadium in its opening game of the NCAA Softball Tournament to advance to the winner’s bracket game of the regional and face the winner of No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 4 seed Alabama State.
The Tigers found their mojo at the plate behind another lights out performance by Valerie Cagle in the circle and at the plate as she walked it off in the bottom of the fifth with her second two-run homer of the game.
Head coach John Rittman knew this was special moment for his program to win their first ever postseason game.
“This is a special day for our program starting with a dominant performance in the circle from Valerie Cagle,” Rittman said after the game. “She had all of her stuff working today and pitched extremely well. Then our offense got going after the game against Duke which was really a relief.”
Alia Logoleo and Marissa Guimbarda both homered in the contest and Cagle belted a pair of two run homers in the contest. Cagle pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just one hit with 10 strikeouts and just two walks to earn the win.
Logoleo was amazed with the performance from Cagle in yet another big moment.
“Postseason is huge and for Valerie Cagle to come out and do what she does is amazing,” Logoleo said. “We have so much faith in her in the circle and as a hitter. It’s amazing to have a two-way player like her and she always comes out and produces for us.”
In the bottom of the first with two outs and two on Alia Logoleo opened up the scoring with a three-run home run to left center that scored Ansley Gilstrap and Valerie Cagle to give Clemson a 3-0 lead.
Mackenzie Clark led off the third with a double down the left field line before Gilstrap popped up for the first out. But Cagle delivered at the plate with her 16th homer of the season on a line drive to center that scored Clark and put the Tigers up 5-0.
Marissa Guimbarda followed Cagle with a no-doubter to center for a solo home run to extend the lead to 6-0 after three innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ansley Gilstrap led things off with a single up the middle and Valerie Cagle hit another two run shot to left center to seal the 8-0 win in five innings.
“Both of her home runs were just lasers and her last one on the change up was just special to watch,” Rittman said. “I’m just excited for our coaches, staff and players to get that first win in our postseason history.”
Millie Thompson entered in relief for the Tigers and pitched one inning in relief in the top of the fifth.
Clemson plays the winner of Alabama and Alabama State in the winner’s bracket at noon on Saturday at Rhoads Softball Stadium in Tuscaloosa for a spot in the regional championship game.
The Crimson Tide and Hornets square off at 5:30 p.m. EST on Friday.