Clemson started strong in its first NCAA Softball Tournament on Friday with an 8-0 win over Troy in five innings to move on in the winner’s bracket of the Tuscaloosa (Alabama) Regional.
The Tigers looked impressive in their first ever postseason game with a stellar performance form Valerie Cagle in the circle and at the plate. She pitched four scoreless innings, allowed one hit and struck out 10 while hitting a pair of two-run home runs.
Clemson plays No. 3 overall seed Alabama at noon on Saturday for a spot in the regional championship game at Rhoads Softball Stadium.
Head coach John Rittman is just happy to be moving on and taking one more step towards a regional championship.
“Anytime you advance in the postseason is special. This is the time of the year where every win is a big win,” Rittman said after the win over the Trojans. “To get this first one under our belt is huge. It puts us in a position tomorrow to hopefully get one step closer to a regional championship.”
The Crimson Tide bested Alabama State 9-0 in six innings on Friday evening to earn the bout with Clemson.
Alabama has had an outstanding regular season that includes an SEC Softball Tournament Championship, a 46-7 overall record, top ranking in the RPI and the third overall seed in the NCAA Tournament with the right to host a regional and super regional.
The Tigers entered the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after being snubbed by the NCAA selection committee and made it clear earlier in the week that they are not scared of the challenge of facing one of the nation’s toughest teams.
Clemson will start Cagle in the circle in what looks to be another high-powered pitchers’ duel. Alabama reserved ace Montana Fouts for Saturday’s game, she boasts a 1.55 ERA and a 22-3 record in 26 starts.
Rittman has scouted the Crimson Tide leading up to the regional and knows the talent they bring to the field and the challenge posed by their home field advantage.
“We’ve got a pretty good worksheet on them and know they have an outstanding team. We are going to have to really bring our A-game tomorrow,” Rittman said. “We know the crowd will be quite a ruckus here at Rhoads Stadium and it will be a great experience for our team.”
The two teams square off at noon at Rhoads Softball Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and also carried by 105.5 FM in the upstate with The Clemson Insider alum William Qualkinbush on the call.
—Photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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