With Clemson softball’s fourth season ever just a couple of weeks away, head coach John Rittman and his staff welcome back a deep group of position players to the field for the 2023 season.
The Tigers return six starters from last season’s lineup and look to fill vacancies at both second base and left field with veterans Cammy Pereira and Sam Russ both moving on after last season.
Clemson returns two catchers with starting experience in sophomore Aby Vieira and redshirt junior JoJo Hyatt. Both will bring much-needed depth and experience to the Tigers’ lineup behind the plate and in the batter’s box.
“JoJo Hyatt’s another player who’s been there as long as Arielle [Oda], and she provides some gap for us,” Rittman said in a podcast interview with D1Softball. “She’s been our starting catcher, but she’s somebody that’s got a lot of experience.
“Aby Vieira, freshman catcher last year. She had a big season after a tough injury that she fought back from and really ended the year really strong for us at catcher and provided some power in our lineup.”
Rittman and the Tigers return almost their entire infield with starters Valerie Cagle at first base, Alia Logoleo at shortstop and Maddie Moore at third base all set to take the field this spring despite losing the veteran Pereira at second base. Redshirt juniors Kyah Keller and Madison May will also compete for reps at first base when Cagle is in the circle.
“Then we have our core group,” Rittman said. “You know we mentioned Valerie Cagle is one of the top two-way players in the country, Millie [Thompson] and our pitching staff just complements each other really well. …
“Alia Logoleo, who is our shortstop last year and is pretty versatile, can play infield or outfield, but she’ll be in the infield again this year for us. She’s got a lot of power when she’s healthy. She’s battled some injuries over her career, but when she’s healthy and getting at-bats, she’s really a big spark for us in the lineup.”
Clemson also returns two talented veterans to its outfield in the form of junior center fielder McKenzie Clark and right fielder Arielle Oda. With Russ moving on after last season, the Tigers are likely to see Morgan Johnson compete for reps as well as some personnel movement in the outfield early on.
“McKenzie Clark in center field is a very dynamic player for us,” the head coach said. “An outstanding defensive outfielder with a great arm, hits for average, has speed, hits for power.
“Arielle Oda’s another player that has really stepped up. She was somebody who started the program here before we were even playing games, so her first academic year was 2018-19 and because of COVID, she’ll still have another year of eligibility next year. She’s really just steadily improved over her career, and last year she was just such a key role player for us and she’ll be that same player for us this year.”
As for newcomers, Clemson welcomes four graduate transfers including FGCU infielder Reedy Davenport, Newberry College outfielder Julia Bomhardt, Wisconsin outfielder Ally Miklesh and Duke outfielder Caroline Jacobson as well as one incoming freshman in Marena Knowles.
“We’ve added some key components in the transfer portal,” Rittman said. “We’ve been good with the graduate transfers the last couple of years. This year we added Caroline Jacobson, who was a starting outfielder for Duke, Ally Miklesh is a starting outfielder at Wisconsin and then Reedy Davenport was a starting infielder at Florida Gulf Coast.
“I think all three of those players provided an opportunity for us to maybe fill some holes and all three are high-character players that work extremely hard and are really experienced. You can’t always get that without the years that they have put in, and that’s certainly going to help us going into the season.”
The Tigers open up the 2023 season on Feb. 9 with a five-game stretch over four days at the FIU Tournament in Miami, Fla. First pitch against FIU is set for 5:30 p.m.
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