Alabama jumped on Clemson early in a 5-0 win to claim the Tuscaloosa (Alabama) Regional championship and advance to host an NCAA Super Regional next weekend.
In its first full year, Clemson finished the season 44-8 overall with an ACC Regular Season Championship, as well as win streaks of 17 and 19 games during the course of the season. The Tigers also advanced to the ACC Championship Game and an NCAA Regional Championship Round in their first try.
The Crimson Tide jumped on top of Clemson pitcher Valerie Cagle early with four runs in the first two innings, including a three-run homer in the second inning.
Alabama (49-7) took advantage of infield hits and three Clemson errors in the game. The Crimson Tide’s speed on the base paths and standout pitching proved too much for the young Tigers’ team.
Head coach John Rittman felt his team never backed down, but Bama’s speed and experience won out.
“Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way and their speed put pressure on us all weekend,” Rittman said after the game. “But Valerie gave us a chance to come back and a lot of teams down 4-0 early would’ve folded, but this team doesn’t do that and it was a great effort from our team.”
Montana Fouts earned the win with another exceptional performance in the circle with 6 2/3 innings scoreless innings allowing just three hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
Bama got things started in the top of the first with a run on a sacrifice fly by Kaylee Tow that scored Alexis Mack to give it a 1-0 lead.
The Crimson Tide jumped up big in the second on a three-run home run by Taylor Clark to center field that gave them a 4-0 advantage. Cagle was visibly frustrated in the circle after the home run but regained her composure after a visit with pitching coach Kyle Jameson.
In the top of the fifth Alexis Mack drove in a run on another infield single to extend Alabama’s lead to 5-0.
Ansley Gilstrap played her final game in a Clemson uniform and gave every effort at shortstop to try and limit the damage in the infield.
“They are so fast, a lot of it goes to the home field advantage they know how to work their field and put it in good areas,” Gilstrap said. “As the game went on we were figuring out where they wanted to put it and got closer before eventually making them do something different.”
Cagle finished the game with 6 2/3 innings pitched and allowed eight hits, five runs, four earned runs with no walks and five strikeouts. She received a standing ovation from the crowd in Tuscaloosa when she exited the game.
“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.
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