Clemson jumped out to a tremendous start in its inaugural softball season in 2020 with a 19-8 overall record and 5-1 start to ACC play before the season was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Tigers won 10 of their last 11 games before the sudden stop that included the programs first win over a ranked team when they knocked off No. 14 Georgia, 4-1, at Clemson Softball Stadium on February 26, 2020.
With a host of returning talent, including three preseason All-ACC players and the addition of the No. 12 recruiting class according to Extra Innings Softball, the Tigers are poised to build on a successful first year.
Head coach John Rittman told The Clemson Insider his team is eager to compete and kick off the new season.
“We are definitely very excited to start playing softball again and to face another opponent other than ourselves,” he said. “All things considered with the pandemic and being shut down last year we are very happy to be back to doing what we love and hopefully we’ll get back to some sort of normalcy.”
Clemson returns the bulk of its starters from last year’s team but has to replace M.K. Bonamy who started all 27 games in 2020, but decided to forgo an extra year of eligibility.
Among the returners are pitcher Valerie Cagle, shortstop Hannah Goodwin and cleanup hitter Marissa Guimbarda.
Cagle started all 27 games for the Tigers and started in the circle 13 times as a true freshman last year. She pitched eight complete games including when she held the Bulldogs to one run. Cagle also adds power at the plate and finished with a .376 batting average, 10 home runs and an ACC-best 36 RBIs.
Goodwin has battled with injuries this offseason but led the team and was second in the ACC with a .385 batting average last year and had a .448 on-base percentage.
Guimbarda hit .355 on the season and tied for fourth in the nation with an ACC-leading 11 home runs and added 31 RBIs. She also had an .868 slugging percentage, that ranked No. 21 nationally.
Rittman likes the returning talent but is also excited for the addition of seven freshman and Furman graduate transfer Casey Bingham who will make an immediate impact for the Tigers. The added depth comes with challenges in building a cohesive lineup but for Rittman it’s a good problem to have.
“We added a number of players with another transfer and fielder in Casey Bigham and then we added seven freshman to our roster,” he said. “We have a lot more depth, but with that come some options both offensively and defensively.”
Note: Clemson’s game at North Florida, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13, has been moved to Friday, Feb. 12. at 2:30 p.m. Additionally, the Tigers’ first game of the season against Illinois State, which was originally slated for 2:30 p.m., is now scheduled to commence at noon on Friday, Feb. 12.
Clemson’s home series against Elon has also been slightly modified. The Tigers will take on Elon in a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., followed by a single game on Sunday, Feb. 28 at noon.
Instead of hosting Jacksonville State in a three-game series, Clemson will play host to Furman on Friday, March 12 and Saturday, March 13. Friday’s game is scheduled for 5 p.m., while Saturday’s doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.