CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson Softball utility ace Valerie Cagle (Yorktown, Va.) has been named the 2021 ACC Player and Freshman of the Year, while Head Coach John Rittman has been tabbed the league’s Coach of the Year as was announced on ACC Network’s Packer And Durham Tuesday morning. Cagle and Rittman guided the Tigers (40-5, 29-5 ACC) to an ACC regular-season championship in the program’s first complete season.
Cagle, one of the nation’s best two-way players, is the first player in league history to garner either ACC Player or Pitcher of the Year, while also being crowned ACC Freshman of the Year. In addition to achieving the conference’s second-best overall ERA (1.15), Cagle was third in the ACC in batting average (.420), tied for second in home runs (14), tied for fourth in RBI (40) and doubles (11), second in slugging percentage (.819) and first in total bases (113). Cagle is one of 10 remaining USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Finalists and is the only player in the conference to be named both ACC Player and Pitcher of the Week, having earned pitcher-of-the-week honors twice. Cagle was also the only player in the country this season to claim both NFCA Player and Pitcher of the Week awards.
Rittman led the Tigers to an overall record of 40-5 and 29-5 in conference games this season, a slate that was highlighted by 19 and 17-game win streaks. Rittman and the Tigers became the first program in ACC Softball history to secure a regular-season conference championship in a program’s first complete season. Rittman led Clemson to a No. 11 national ranking, the team’s highest ranking to date, through the program's first 68 games played. In addition to leading the conference in both overall and conference-only winning percentage, the Tigers were first in the ACC in a number of offensive statistical categories, including slugging percentage (.521), on-base percentage (.391), hits (363), RBI (246) and total bases (619). Additionally, Rittman and the Tigers’ pitching staff, which consists of five freshmen, led the ACC in ERA (1.56), saves (7), runs allowed (82) and home runs allowed (17). Tuesday’s announcement marked Rittman’s third conference coach-of-the-year distinction of his career, having won Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2004 during his stint at Stanford.
The First, Second and Third All-ACC teams as well as the league’s All-Freshman Team are expected to be announced by the conference office on Tuesday afternoon.
Up next, the top-seeded Tigers will face the winner of No. 8 Syracuse (20-23, 12-20 ACC) and No. 9 Georgia Tech (19-25, 11-19 ACC) on Thursday at 11 a.m. ET in the quarterfinals of the 2021 ACC Softball Championship at Ulmer Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. All 2021 ACC Softball Championship games will broadcast on ACC Network with the exception of Saturday’s title game, which will air on ESPN2 at noon. 2021 ACC Tournament Bracket
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