NO.16 CLEMSON SOFTBALL SWEEPS STATE IN STYLE ON SENIOR DAY, EXTENDS WIN STREAK TO 17!
- 2021-04-26 09:44:07
CLEMSON, SC - After a day of rain on Saturday, it was a beautiful, spring Sunday as the Clemson seniors Ansley Gilstrap, Casey Bigham and Cammy Pereira were honored before their last regular season home game. The drama of Friday night's 4-3 walk-off win by the Tigers carried over, and all 3 of the seniors would come up big in two more 4-3 wins on Sunday!
The Tigers' 15-game win streak was seemingly on the ropes in the first half of Sunday's doubleheader, as they trailed 3-1 in the 7th with the bottom of the lineup to start the inning. In a scoreless pitchers' duel through 5 innings, Valerie Cagle was dominant in the circle as usual, but a mental error by Cammy Pereira at 3rd with 2 outs in the 6th inning led to all 3 of State's runs. On a routine grounder, she opted to throw home without the force instead of making the easy play at 1st. The runner was safe, and the next batter singled to put the Tigers in a 3-run hole. However, the senior Pereira would redeem herself in the next game! Marissa Guimbarda crushed her 11th HR of the season in the bottom half of the inning to make the score 3-1, and that set the stage for the dramatic 7th inning.
The rally began in bizarre fashion, with 7-hitter Logoleo squibbing an 0-2 pitch off the edge of the plate, and it spun onto the field like a pool cue. She was able to beat the throw to 1st, and the Tigers were in business. Mattimore sac bunted the runner to 2nd, and pinch-hitter Morgan Johnson struck out, so the Tigers were down to their final out with their leadoff batter, true freshman McKenzie Clark, who had homered in each of the last 3 games. Clark and Gilstrap were walked on 8 straight balls to load the bases with 2 outs, and something truly remarkable happened. State opted to intentionally walk Valerie Cagle, scoring a run and making it a 3-2 game with the bases loaded! I'm not sure I've ever seen a team do that before, and I should point out that this was the 3rd time in the last 2 games that State made a questionable decision to walk the National Player of the Year candidate. Earlier in the game, they intentionally walked her to lead off the inning in a scoreless game--another thing I'm not sure I've ever seen! And on Friday night, State intentionally walked Cagle with the bases empty and the score tied in the 7th, and Guimbarda hit a walk-off double to win the game. That is the ultimate sign of respect and indicates how much State feared the bat of Cagle--especially with a hitter like Guimbarda behind her! In fact, as noted above, Guimbarda homered in the previous inning, but State still decided to walk in a run with Cagle and roll the dice with Guimbarda! Well, just like Friday night, the gamble backfired. The State pitcher, who had thrown a whale of a game, threw 2 more balls to make it 14 straight. With a 2-0 count to Guimbarda and the tying run on 3rd, State made a pitching change. Guimbarda walked in the tying run on full count, and that brought senior Casey Bigham to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 outs. She took the first pitch to deep left-center for a walk-off single and the 4-3 win. If we didn't already know it, there is something magical about this team! It's like they don't know how to lose.
The second half of the doubleheader was another incredible game! With freshman Millie Thompson in the circle, the Tigers once again found themselves trailing late. They were down 1-0 in the 1st until senior Ansley Gilstrap, wearing a knee brace, made a tremendous slide at home plate with 2 outs in the 3rd to tie the game. She had injured her knee on Wednesday against the Gamecocks and came up limping after the score but continued to play and appears to be fine. State re-took the lead 2-1 in the 5th, but the Tigers answered in the bottom half. Singles by Gilstrap and Cagle set up an RBI double by Guimbarda, who had 6 RBI's in the series, to tie the game again 2-2. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, senior Cammy Pereira came up with a clutch 2-out single to put the Tigers ahead for the first time 4-2. Cagle came in to close the game in the 7th and allowed a run to make it 4-3, but she was able to get a double play to end the game and complete the sweep.
3 straight 4-3 wins! The Tigers have now matched their program record, winning 17 straight games for the second time this season, and they've won 34 of their last 36. What a way to wrap up the regular season home slate, with all 3 seniors making clutch plays in the Senior Day doubleheader! Hopefully, they will host the regional round of the NCAA Tournament. They ought to be in contention for a top-8 national seed, but unfortunately, the seeding will be announced before the ACC Tournament this year due to COVID. The Tigers will have a chance to beat a top-10 FSU team and win the ACC Tournament, but with the seeding taking place before that occurs, the Tigers might not even get to host the regional. They will travel to Syracuse next weekend to complete the regular season schedule.
My post-game interview with John Rittman is below!
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