CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s fifth-ranked softball team improved to 4-0 all-time against rival South Carolina thanks to Tuesday’s 10-0 victory over the Gamecocks at McWhorter Stadium.
The Tigers used a seven-run fourth inning to run-rule South Carolina in five innings. Valerie Cagle and Alia Logoleo led the way, as both hit home runs, while combing for seven RBIs.
“South Carolina is a good team. I know the score did not indicate it, but they are a much-improved offensive team. They have pitching depth,” Clemson head coach John Rittman said. “I think it speaks a lot about our team. We definitely got up for this game the last couple of years and played very well.”
In four meetings, Clemson has outscored the Gamecocks, 27-2.
“The rivalry has been built up so long since (both) athletics started competing against each other, so it is kind of fun to just be able to continue that,” Cagle said.
Cagle, the National Player of the Week, also earned the win in the circle. She held the Gamecocks (24-8) to one hit while improving to 16-1 as a starter.
The Tigers (33-1) took the lead in the bottom of the first inning as Clark came home on a Cagle hit through the right side with one out. Cagle later scored for a 2-0 lead on a Logoleo signal to short. The junior’s hustle down the first-base line allowed Cagle’s run to stand after the umpires confirmed she beat out Brooke Blankenship’s throw from short.
“Ground ball in the hole and she beat it out. A very close play. I think that speed played a factor in the game tonight,” Rittman said.
Cagle helped her own cause again in the bottom of the third when she lined a home run to centerfield for a 3-0 lead. It was the junior’s 12th home run of the season.
“That was a hard-hit ball. I am telling you,” Rittman said. “I have been coaching a longtime. That ball got out of here in a hurry.”
Clemson continued to pour on the Gamecocks in the bottom of the fourth inning when it brought 12 batters to the plate. Julia Bomhardt scored on a fielding error with one out, and Ally Miklesh came home on a Reedy Davenport single up the middle.
USC reliever Bailey Betenbaugh hit the first two batters she faced to load the bases and then walked Cagle to score Ansley Houston. Clark scored on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Caroline Jacobson, setting the stage for Logoleo’s three-run bomb to left field for a 10-0 lead.
“It is just fun to have a new sport here at Clemson and so, whenever we do play our rival, it gets so packed here. It is so loud. It is a lot of fun,” Logoleo said.
The Tigers and Gamecocks will conclude their season-series in Columbia on April 11.
Stat of the Game: The win over the Gamecocks was Clemson’s 28th straight at McWhorter Stadium and its 19th overall, which ties a school record.
Player of the Game: On the same day she was named National Player of the Week, Cagle did not disappoint against the Gamecocks. The junior had two hits and drove in three runs at the plate, while she allowed just one hit and struck out five to earn the win in the circle.
“She just pitched a tremendous game. Kept their offense off balance all night,” Rittman said.
Key Moment: With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Logoleo beats out Brooke Blankenship’s throw to first, allowing Cagle to come home with the game’s second run. As it turned out, it was all the Tigers needed.
“I thought the first inning was huge for us. It set the tone of the game,” Rittman said.
Of Note: South Carolina head coach Beverley Smith was thrown out of the game by head umpire Cameron Ellison in the bottom of the second inning after she argued illegal pitches.
“Technically, the rule is, she was leaping a little bit and once you have been warned, you can’t argue,” Rittman said. “I believe that is what happened in that situation. Bev is going to stick up for her team and a good coach always will.”
Up Next: Clemson will play Friday at Boston College at 6 p.m.
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