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Softball looks to dominate in 2024 season

Ashleigh Snyder
Clemson outfielder McKenzie Clark races to catch a ball in the Orange vs. Purple scrimmage this past weekend. Clark will be an essential component of the Tigers’ success this season.

Clemson softball is set to commence its fifth season with high expectations and a hard-hitting starting lineup. The program landed the No. 7 slot in preseason polls for D1Softball and ESPN/USA Softball ahead of their season opener this Thursday against Missouri State.

The greatest strength for head coach John Rittman will be his roster, highlighted by USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Valerie Cagle, who is back in the circle for her final season. A powerhouse on both sides of the ball, Cagle holds a .469 batting average and 1.56 ERA.

Behind her in the rotation are veterans Millie Thompson, Brooke McCubbin and Reagan Spencer. Together, the four threw for a combined 317 strikeouts and 19 solo shutouts for a 1.61 ERA in 2023.

Center fielder and lead-hitter McKenzie Clark also returns to the diamond. Last season, the senior’s .335 average complimented her team-high 56 runs and 13 homers.

The program welcomes five true freshmen and two sophomore transfers, which will be vital for program development. Clemson’s starting lineup is primarily graduate and senior players, three of whom face the end of their softball careers at the conclusion of this season.

Last year, the Tigers finished out their season 49-12 (18-6 ACC). In their conference, the squad fell to top programs No. 4 Florida State and No. 23 Virginia Tech. The Tigers concluded their run in the super regionals for the second consecutive season, falling to eventual national champion Oklahoma.

ACC play will kick off on March 1 for the Tigers when they welcome NC State to McWhorter Stadium. With the conference expansion, Clemson may have to face No. 3 Stanford in the postseason conference tournament, as they are not slated for a regular season matchup. Duke will be another threat on the schedule, as the program is close behind in the polls at No. 9.

The Tigers have been the team to watch since their inception in 2020. Most recently, it was announced that their Feb. 10 game against No. 13 Oregon will be broadcast on MLB Network.

With a loaded roster full of experience in their competitive division, fans can expect Clemson to take on the season with high energy. Being a top-rated program with top-rated players, the Tigers are eager to make a deeper run in postseason play.

The 2024 season opener will mark the program’s 200th game and will take place on Thursday, Feb. 8, in Clearwater, Florida, when Clemson plays in the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

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About the Contributors
Kiley Bouchard
Kiley Bouchard, Senior Reporter
Ashleigh Snyder
Ashleigh Snyder, Photo Editor
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