CLEMSON, SC - If the exuberance that Valerie Cagle and Alia Logoleo displayed yesterday during their post-game interviews are at indication, go ahead and make your reservations in Oklahoma City for the first week in June. If the nearly 2,000 people that were in attendance for a scrimmage in 40-degree weather is another indication, the Lady Tigers will be well represented when the time comes.
The one thing I didn't expect when I pulled up to McWhorter Stadium for Sunday's preseason scrimmage was to find no parking. If you didn't know better, you would have thought it was a regular season game. The atmosphere was incredible and the offensive explosion between the white lines didn't disappoint.
The Orange team scored 3 runs in the first three innings, as Valerie Cagle was able to keep the Purple team off balance with timely pitching and great defense. However, in the bottom of the 3rd, it seemed like things were going to unravel as Cagle gave up 7 runs on 7 hits, including a 2-run blast by Haylee Whiteside that may have landed in her hometown of Duncan SC.
It was this time last year when Cagle gave up 10 runs only to come back and win it in the end with a walk-off. As it turns out, that script would have a sequel. The Orange team battled back in the bottom of the 5th, tying the game on a shot that hit the bag at 3rd and popped into left field. With two outs and the bases empty, this set the stage again for Cagle, and she didn't disappoint.
All it took was one pitch, and Cagle deposited it deep into the right field parking lot, securing the 8-7 victory for the Orange team. As Rittman called the game to end, the crowd came to its feet to show its appreciation for what they just witnessed, and the Lady Tigers made sure to show their appreciation to the crowd.
Alex Brown, a transfer from North Carolina, was overheard saying she can't recall playing in front of a thousand people at UNC for a game, let alone a couple thousand for a scrimmage.
As I was walking out of the stadium, I looked over and the baseball team was having its scrimmage at Doug Kingsmore, and the crowd was very sparse. It dawned on me that at some point Clemson might want to consider playing a few softball games in the baseball stadium if they can pull it off.
I can assure you that as it stands right now, McWhorter Stadium isn't big enough for this fan base, and expansion is going to be needed to handle the softball juggernaut that is emerging in Clemson.
Cagle, of course, is about to begin her final season, and Rittman talked about her being the cornerstone of the program. She is the reigning National Player of the Year and is at the top of every publication to repeat that feat. I don't think that has ever happened, and Cagle referenced it in our post-game interview.
She has been there and done that, so she doesn't really care about the individual accolades. All she wants to do is have fun and enjoy her last year here at Clemson. With that being said, don't let that fool you into believing that Cagle isn't as competitive as they come. Even in an intra-squad scrimmage, that competitiveness shown through. After making back-to-back Super Regionals, anything less than a trip to Oklahoma City would be a disappointment. The season starts in earnest this Thursday....PLAY BALL!
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