Cagle outduels Rochard as Tigers beat No. 14 Hokies in ACC opener

by - Senior Writer -
Cagle was outstanding in Thursday's win (file photo).
Cagle was outstanding in Thursday's win (file photo).

CLEMSON – Clemson softball’s first ACC win of the year came over one of the nation’s best pitchers and a ranked team.

Valerie Cagle outdueled Keely Rochard and the Tigers scored five runs in the bottom of the third in knocking off No. 14 Virginia Tech 8-1 Thursday afternoon in Clemson. Clemson improves to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the ACC, while Tech falls to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in league play.

The teams will play a doubleheader Friday starting at noon.

Rochard led the NCAA in strikeouts, wins, and shutouts last season and gave up just one earned run against the Tigers thanks to two Hokie errors. Cagle continues to build off of her stellar first year, going the distance. She allowed just one unearned run while striking out six and walking just one.

The game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the third. Ansley Gilstrap was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and she moved to third when JoJo Hyatt laced a single to right field. Jaden Cheek pinch-ran for Hyatt, and transfer Casey Bigham slashed a single to center that scored Gilstrap for a 1-0 lead, with both runners moving up a base.

Two outs later, Cagle bounced one to the shortstop but the throw was low, enabling Cagle to reach and both Bigham and Cheek to score for a 3-0 lead. That brought up Marissa Guimbarda, who launched the first pitch she saw over the wall in left for a two-run homer, her second long ball of the season, for a 5-0 lead.

Cagle gave up an unearned run in the top of the fourth that made it 5-1, but the Tigers responded in the bottom of the inning. Cammy Pereira lined an 0-2 single to right field to lead off the inning, and Gilstrap followed with a long foul ball down the left-field line. The left fielder made a diving catch in foul ground, and Pereira tagged up and moved to second. The throw to second was off line, allowing Pereira to move to third with one out.

One out later, Bigham picked up her second RBI of the day, lining a single to right that scored Pereira for a 6-1 lead.

The Tigers added to the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Cagle drew a one-out walk, and Carlee Shannon came on as a pinch-runner. Shannon promptly stole second and after the ball trickled past the centerfielder, Shannon was able to score for a 7-1 lead. Clemson added another run on a double by Pereira and led 8-1.

The Tigers will head to Atlanta for three games within two days against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets starting Saturday. The Yellow Jackets had themselves a successful opening weekend, picking up five wins and also ACC Player and Co-Pitcher of the week in helping Georgia Tech to their best start since 2013. All games are scheduled to broadcast online via ACCNX, with the games at Georgia Tech set for a 4 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 4 p.m. Sunday.

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