After an amazing second year of softball, Clemson found itself in its first NCAA Tournament, but with a very challenging draw. The Tigers, who many felt would host a regional, were sent to be the second seed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, hosted by the number three ranked Crimson Tide. Clemson was not the only ACC team to find itself not hosting, as ACC champion Duke played in Athens, Georgia and fell short to UGA.
Game One went as well as you could ask for. Clemson steamrolled Troy 8-0 in a six inning, run rule game behind the pitching and two home runs of Valerie Cagle. In front of a solid Clemson contingent, the Tigers got the program’s first NCAA tournament win.
Clemson fought tough in Game Two, but couldn’t get anything going against Bama pitcher Montana Fouts. Alabama used bunts and speed to load up the bases in the third and then scored twice of a bloop double. Alabama then broke it open in the sixth, taking advantage of more Clemson errors to score four more runs. Fouts would strike out a career high tying sixteen Tigers and Alabama won 6-0.
Clemson then had about two or so hours to rest before taking on the winner of Troy-Alabama State. The Trojans won that game, setting up the Saturday evening rematch with Clemson.
Knotted at one a piece in the top of the seventh, Morgan Johnson came off the bench for a pinch hit two RBI double to give Clemson a 3-1 lead. Morgan was later brought around to score. Valerie Cagle (who started games one and two at pitcher) came in from the outfield in the bottom half of the inning to close out the game and get Clemson the 4-2 win, eliminating Troy and advancing the Tigers to the regional finals.
Cagle then made her fourth pitching appearance in three days, starting Sunday afternoon against the Tide. Clemson would need to win two to advance to the Super Regionals, and Alabama just needed to win once. Bama plated one in the top of the first off a sac fly, but the Tigers were able to limit the damage to that. After Bama worked some runners off of Clemson errors, Taylor Clark crushed a three run shot to center field in the second. Bama went on to tack another run on later, and won 5-0. Montana Fouts had another brilliant performance, pitching all seven innings and striking out twelve Tiger batters. Cagle pitched 6.2 innings and struck out five, leaving to a standing ovation from Clemson and Alabama fans during her seventh inning exit.
Alabama will now host #14 Kentucky in the Super Regionals. Today was the Tide’s forty-third consecutive win in the NCAA regionals, the nation’s longest streak. For Clemson, this is a tough way to end a fantastic season, but the future is very bright. Clemson will certainly be a known commodity in 2022 and will probably come in as a favorite in the ACC.