No. 4 Clemson continued its dominance in the circle this season after sweeping Syracuse in the Tigers’ first ACC series of 2023 this past weekend at McWhorter Stadium.
With Clemson starting arguably one of the best pitching duos in the country in Valerie Cagle and Millie Thompson, along with a solid pitching staff behind them, the Tigers have continued to bring what head coach John Rittman described as “a really great 1-2 punch” with Thompson and Cagle in the circle.
“We’ve got a really great 1-2 punch, and then we’ve got Regan [Spencer] and Brooke [McCubbin] that can come in and pitch for us as well,” Rittman said following Saturday’s doubleheader victory. “But I really think Millie and Valerie complement each other so well because they’re different types of pitchers and they can throw off an offense.”
Even though the pair couldn’t be any more different, the way their vast pitching styles complement each other against opposing teams has been a big X-Factor for the Tigers this spring and this past weekend was no exception.
Cagle, who pitched in two of the Tigers’ three wins on Saturday and Sunday, put together an impressive campaign through 9.0 total innings pitched, recording nine strikeouts while only allowing four hits, one run and one walk en route to her eighth win of the season. The Virginia native currently leads the Tigers with eight wins and just one loss and ranks third with her 0.63 ERA — something her head coach attributes to “Valerie Cagle in the circle just does Valerie things.”
Thompson, on the other hand, pitched in just one game this weekend for the Tigers but made quite the statement. In also her eighth win of the season, the lefthander shut out Syracuse in five innings pitched while allowing just four hits, no runs and no walks along with three strikeouts.
Thompson dealt a whopping 22 strikes and just nine balls in the process, which Rittman thinks absolutely puts the junior in player of the year conversations right alongside Cagle, who was named a preseason USA Softball Player of the Year Top 25 Finalist earlier this year.
“Yeah, there’s no question. Millie, she’s just got so much confidence in the circle… she’s such a competitor,” Rittman said. “She’s got all the pitches that she needs to be successful and obviously her off-speed pitch is her go to, but she can throw up and down and really keep hitters off balance. Our defense always has played well behind her.”
Next up, Clemson hosts Mercer on Wednesday, March 8, at McWhorter Stadium with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. on ACCNX.
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