Miklesh, Cagle power Clemson past Tar Heels
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Graduate Ally Miklesh came up big for the third-seeded Tigers, scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning to help Clemson to a 2-1 walk-off win against six-seed North Carolina on Thursday evening at Melissa Cook Stadium. With the win, Clemson improves to 46-8 on the year and advances to the ACC Championship Semifinals for the third-consecutive season.
2023 ACC Player of the Year, Valerie Cagle, who was starting in her 26th game of the year in the circle, struck out a season-high 12 in her eight-inning performance. She also surpassed 700 strikeouts in her career to bring her total to 707 and season total to 177, while improving to 23-5.
“Just a wonderful performance by Valerie Cagle in the circle,” said head coach John Rittman. “She never ceases to amaze us. She had electric stuff tonight. North Carolina has speed in their lineup to help manufacture a run.
It was a big night offensively for us. JoJo (Hyatt) sparked us early in the game with the walk, and Reedy (Davenport) bunted her to second. Ally (Miklesh) came up clutch with the big two-out hit to bring home Ansley (Houston). It was a pitchers’ duel, but we stayed resilient and composed. Again, in the eighth inning, Miklesh came up huge with the leadoff double, and I can’t say enough about her. Valerie was patient to draw the walk, and when you are in postseason play, you find ways to win. That’s what we did with Miklesh advancing two bases on a passed ball and a wild pitch for us to score and win. The bottom line is that we are moving onto tomorrow and looking forward to the challenge of playing Duke.”
The final game of the day began as a pitchers’ duel that had Clemson striking first in the bottom of the third inning. JoJo Hyatt began the bottom half of the inning with a walk with Ansley Houston coming in as her pinch runner. Reedy Davenport advanced her into scoring position with a sac bunt, and Ally Miklesh brought her home with a single up the middle.
North Carolina responded with a single run of its own in the next half inning to make it 1-1 after four. The pitching duel continued through the next three innings with neither side getting a runner past second base to force extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, North Carolina forgot to reenter a batter, resulting in the first out of the inning. The Clemson defense used that momentum to turn a quick 1-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Miklesh stepped to the plate and hit a first pitch double to left center. The Tarheels intentionally walked Cagle, and on a dropped four ball, Miklesh took advantage on the passed ball to put runners on the corners. With Caroline Jacobsen battling at the plate, Miklesh once again showed her experience on the base paths to score on a wild pitch to seal the victory for Clemson.
The Tigers continue action at the ACC Championships tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. Clemson will take on the No. 2 seed Duke on ACC Network.
Photo courtesy: Clemson Tigers