Valerie Cagle Is Making A Name For Herself, Clemson Softball
The sport of softball isn’t exactly new to the state of South Carolina. The Gamecocks from the University of South Carolina have been playing since 1974 and the Eagles from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. have also been playing since 1974. However, in Clemson, S.C. on the campus of Clemson University, the softball program is only in its second season and its first full season overall, with its inaugural 2020 season shortened due to COVID-19.
But redshirt freshman Valerie Cagle has been there from the beginning.
Cagle enrolled at Clemson in 2019 after being drawn to the school by the chance to compete with a new program. The program itself had been in the works for the past couple years, with John Rittman being named the first head coach in November 2017. In addition to the opportunity to play for a new program, Cagle was also encouraged by other factors during her recruiting process, including the coaching staff and in her words the “culture that they wanted to build.”
Hailing from Yorktown Va., Cagle made an immediate impact in her true freshman season last year. She started all 27 games, hit 10 home runs and led the ACC with 36 RBI. In the circle, she pitched a complete-game victory against the nationally ranked Georgia Bulldogs and racked up 87 strikeouts.
Overall, the Tigers went 19-8 in their first season, with a 5-1 record in conference play. More than that, the team quickly became popular within the community, with fans filling up the stands on game days.
According to Cagle, the popularity of the team speaks more to the success of Clemson Athletics than anything else.
“It’s definitely helpful in the stands to have a lot of fans being there cheering and supporting, but I think that just shows how established Clemson Athletics is as a program in general that even when you add a brand new sport, fans are going to be on board from the very beginning,” said Cagle.
Ahead of this season, expectations were high at Clemson, including for Cagle. She was ranked as the No. 2 freshman in the country by Softball America and was a preseason All-ACC selection. So far this season, things have gone well not only for Cagle, but also for her team.
This year, she leads the team in batting average at .346, has seven home runs, a 13-3 record toeing the rubber with 101 strikeouts and has only given up two home runs. The team is 22-4, with a 14-4 conference record and three wins over ranked teams, beating Virginia Tech once and Duke twice. The Tigers are also currently ranked No. 20 in the nation by Softball America.
For a program that only had its first season last year, the transition to a nationally recognized and relevant team has been a quick one, with players like Cagle undoubtedly being big reasons why.
However, according to Cagle, the team’s success ultimately comes from every member and what they bring to the squad's overall dynamic.
“It’s definitely special to be a part of building a program and being one of the first members of the team, but everybody on the team really plays their role very well and it’s definitely a team-first attitude across the members of our team,” stated Cagle.
Additionally, while obtaining national recognition and being respected by fellow coaches and peers is important to Cagle, she has a bigger picture in mind.
“It’s definitely a nice feeling to have that national recognition, but you can’t think about that too much,” Cagle added. “You have to keep doing what you’ve been doing the whole time and stick to your plan.”