As head coach John Rittman and the Tigers look ahead to the 2023 season which is set to open up in just two weeks, Clemson hopes to continue building on the history that it set less than one year ago. The Tigers, who have been ranked in the top 10 of every preseason softball poll released thus far, have their sights set on what would be the program’s first Women’s College World Series berth this spring after making Clemson’s first NCAA Super Regional appearance in 2022.
“We’ve got a lot going for us,” Rittman said in a podcast interview with D1Softball’s Tara Henry. “A lot of returners back, and one of our main objectives is to take that next step and to do what we’ve got to have a team that’s healthy, a team that’s staying humble and hungry to go out and get better.”
A big component of the quick success that the Tigers have seen in just four seasons comes down to the talent in the circle. Veteran two-way player Valerie Cagle, along with Millie Thompson, Regan Spencer and Brooke McCubbin, all bring a high-caliber of talent and depth to Clemson’s pitching rotation — something Rittman says has been key for the Tigers’ success since the very beginning.
“One of the things that’s been a key component for us to be successful is our pitching staff,” Rittman said. “Coach [Kyle] Jamieson works with our pitchers, and I think they’ve done an outstanding job. But when you get a talent like a Valerie Cagle, and then you have pitchers that are really hard workers that have developed in Millie Thompson and Regan Spencer and Brooke McCubbin, that’s going to bode well for you, and I think our pitchers work extremely hard.”
Injuries seemed to plague Clemson’s pitching rotation last season, but that also allowed players like McCubbin to gain valuable starting experience in the circle. She now presents herself as what the fourth-year head coach described as a “valuable option” heading into the season.
“Obviously, injuries have been a part of our last four years, and Valerie’s had a few chronic injuries that she’s dealt with, but she’s back and looks to be healthy to start the season,” Rittman said. “Millie Thompson’s had a few injuries that she’s dealt with in her career and she’s healthy right now, and then Regan at the end of last year was a little banged up and we’re certainly looking to have her back full speed.
“Brooke’s a pitcher that has just developed and continues to improve in her second year here. She’s got kind of a nice luxury to have all of these pitchers ahead of her, so we’ve been able to bring her along at maybe a little bit of a slower pace, but she’s developed into a pretty good option for us. I think that for us and most programs, your success is going to be dictated on who’s in that circle and how successful they are.”
Clemson opens up the 2023 season Feb. 9-12 playing five games in four days at the FIU Tournament in Miami, Fla. First pitch against FIU in Game One is set for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9.
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