After dropping the first two games of their four game set with the Duke Blue Devils, the Clemson softball team bounced back for the third ranked win ever as a program on Saturday. The Tigers took the contest 4-1 off of another strong pitching performance from ace Valerie Cagle.
Cagle returned to the circle for the Tigers after pitching in both games on Friday. The redshirt freshman also recorded both losses from Friday night’s doubleheader.
After allowing two runners in scoring position with one out, Cagle retired the next two batters, leaving the Blue Devils empty handed in the first inning.
The Tigers scored two runs when Cagle gave herself a lead with a one -out, two-run home run to straight away center field. Duke pitcher Peyton St. George retired the next two Tigers, ending the inning.
Despite giving up a leadoff triple in the second inning, Cagle retired the next three batters in order to leave Duke first baseman Rachel Crabtree stranded at third.
In the bottom of the second, the Tigers doubled their lead when McKenzie Clark hit a two-out two-RBI double into left field. St. George recovered and retired the next Tiger batter.
“We’ve proved that we can play,” said McKenzie Clark following the game. “We can’t sneak up on anyone now. We’ve got a target on our backs.”
Center fielder Jameson Kavel led off the Duke half of the third inning with a single into left field. After Kavel stole second base, Cagle stranded the Blue Devils’ center fielder by retiring the next three Duke batters in order.
The Tigers were also not able to get much going in the third inning despite designated player Abi Stuart’s two-out single.
Duke again led off the inning with a base runner in the fourth inning, this time coming from a walk. Again Cagle bounced back to retire the next three batters in order, needing a bit of help from shortstop Ansley Gilstrap, who snagged a would-be RBI base hit from the air between short and second.
St. George retired the Tigers in order in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Duke plated their first run of the game in the fifth inning after Kavel doubled into right field to put herself in scoring position with one out. Rachel Crabtree singled up the middle, scoring Kavel and cutting the Tigers’ lead to three. Looking at the possibility for a big inning with just one out, again Gilstrap played the role of defensive hero. After catching a lineout for the second out of the inning, she threw over to first to double up the Blue Devils, ending the inning and stopping the scoring at just one run.
The Tigers had two base runners of their own in the bottom of the fifth inning, but failed to score either after Marissa Guimbarda popped out in foul territory and Abi Stuart struck out to end the inning.
Duke returned the favor in the top of the sixth inning, having two of their own base runners reach base, including a sharp single that bounced off of Cagle in the circle. Again, Cagle stranded two by retiring the next two batters in order.
Despite having two base runners in the bottom of the seventh inning, Duke caught Alia Logoleo stealing after she walked to lead off the inning. Right fielder Grace Mattimore singled with two outs, but the Tigers were unable to convert her hit into a run.
Duke went down quietly in the seventh inning to end the game. Cagle struck out two on her way to her 13th win of the year.
“Good teams bounce back, and we bounced back today,” stated head coach John Rittman.
Cagle threw her second complete game of the series, striking out four in Saturday’s matchup. The Tigers host the Blue Devils for the final game in the four game set tomorrow at 4 p.m. at McWhorter Stadium.