CLEMSON — Even with spring football over, there is still plenty going on at Clemson. Senior writer Matt Connolly is ready to answer whatever questions you might have. You can submit your question for the “Question of the Day” here. Today’s question is about Clemson softball star Valerie Cagle.
Handicap Cagle’s chances at a National Player of the Year award as a freshman. I’ll hang up and listen.
— Mike McCombs (@MikeMcCombs1) May 9, 2021
Valerie Cagle helped Clemson softball clinch the ACC regular-season championship in just its second year as a program on Sunday.
This has been nothing short of a magical season for the Tigers, who appear set to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament. And Cagle has been a huge part of the success.
The rest of the country is taking notice.
Cagle is in the running for several national and ACC player of the year awards, including — USA Player of the Year, NFCA Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year. She was recently named one of 10 finalists for the USA Player of the Year honor.
ESPN softball analyst Amanda Scarborough told ClemsonSports.com that Cagle deserves to be in the running for all of the many awards she is being considered for.
“They have a great all-around team, but if you don’t have a really strong, shutdown pitcher in the circle, then what Clemson has been able to do wouldn’t have happened,” Scarborough said. “Softball games start in the circle. Being able to get her and bring her in as clearly a program-changer… she’s tremendous. I just think she’s awesome.”
At the plate, Cagle leads Clemson with a .420 average and 14 home runs. On the mound, she’s 24-4 with a 1.15 ERA. She has 213 strikeouts and opponents are hitting just .185 against her.
Whether it’s in the pitcher’s circle or at the plate, she’s been dominant.
As good as Cagle has been, there are plenty of candidates for the National Player of the Year. Oklahoma’s Jocelyn Alo is likely the favorite as she is batting .481 with 26 homers and 71 RBIs. Meanwhile UCLA’s Rachel Garcia is a two-way player who is 12-0 with a 0.59 ERA on the mound and is batting .383 with nine homers and 27 RBIs.
But Cagle shouldn’t be dismissed for what she has done as a pitcher and hitter. Even if Cagle doesn’t win a national player of the year award this year, she could down the road. She’s one of only two freshman among the 10 finalists.
“To become the national player of year would really be something, but with all of these home runs being hit [around the country] I don’t know if she will get the player of the year,” Scarborough said. “But even to be recognized on that list is an award in its own right. I could see her being ACC Player of the Year.”