Clemson launched its softball program last season and turned heads in its inaugural season.
The Tigers jumped out to a 19-8 start that included a win over No. 14 Georgia and a 5-1 record in ACC play before the NCAA cancelled spring sports in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team returned to practice this fall and is preparing for the start of the new season in Jacksonville, Fla. from Feb. 12-14 in the River City Leadoff Tournament.
Head coach John Rittman told The Clemson Insider the team is more than ready to face another opponent after a long offseason.
“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,” he said.
Clemson only lost one starter from last year’s team and returns three preseason All-ACC players and the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation for the 2021 season.
Fall practice served as a huge morale booster for the Tigers and Rittman is pleased with the growth of his team through difficult circumstances this summer.
“To have the team back in the fall and to be practicing and playing again was a big boost for everyone not just emotionally but mentally and physically as well,” he said.
The fall also helped Clemson reckon with the new reality of frequent COVID-19 testing and building depth so players are ready to step in if a starter tests positive or is forced to quarantine because of contact tracing.
“The fall was really an exciting time and we got a lot accomplished and one of the main things was dealing with COVID-19 with all the guidelines and protocols,” Rittman said. “We had some experience dealing with all of those issues and I think that will bode well for us moving forward this spring.”
Improved depth bodes well for the Tigers entering their second season with more versatility in the lineup. Rittman and his coaching staff understand patience will be key in dealing with the complexities of a season in the midst of the pandemic.
“From a coaching standpoint we are going to have to deal with this on a week-to-week bases and things are going to change and we have to deal with that,” he said. “I think one thing that helps us out this year verses our inaugural season is that we have lot more depth and kids that are versatile and that’s going to help us out.”