There was a touching moment in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Sunday for Valerie Cagle despite Clemson’s stellar season coming to an end.
The Tigers fell 5-0 to No. 3 overall seed Alabama in the Tuscaloosa Regional Finals of the NCAA Softball Tournament. The Crimson Tide jumped on Cagle early with four runs in the first two innings, including a three-run homer by Taylor Clark.
And though Cagle did not have her best stuff on Sunday, the Crimson Tide fans in attendance know a talented ballplayer when they see one.
That is why, when the ACC Player of the Year left the game with two outs in the top of the seventh inning for a curtain call, she received a standing ovation from not just the Clemson fans, but from the Alabama fans too that packed out Rhoads Stadium.
Head coach John Rittman credited fans in the venue for the classy move and felt it was well deserved for the second-year freshman.
“For us to do that for her I thought it was a special moment and I really appreciate the classiness of the Alabama fans and the great Clemson fans that were here for the ovation they gave her,” Rittman said after the game.
Cagle finished the game with 6 2/3 innings pitched, while allowing eight hits, five runs, four earned runs with no walks and five strikeouts.
In an emotional postgame press conference, senior Ansley Gilstrap thought the ovation for Cagle exemplified the respect she and the program have gained from softball fans nationally.
“That just shows the respect she has gained through the softball world,” Gilstrap said. “That’s really nice when you have a team like Alabama standing for you even though you took the loss. They were standing for her and that means a lot.”
For Gilstrap the moment showed the true essence of what softball is, that it’s more than just championships or tough losses.
“That’s what softball is about, it’s not just about wins and losses, it’s about the relationships you build and the legacy you leave,” Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap played her last game in a Clemson uniform on Sunday and left it all on the field, while laying out for balls in the gap and doing her best to keep the Crimson Tide’s speed off of the base paths.
Though Gilstrap’s career has come to a close, Cagle will be back next year as Clemson looks to build on its successful first full season in year two.
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