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By John Falduto

With home openers in the books for both Clemson softball and baseball as of this past weekend, there’s plenty to be excited about for both programs with conference play set to begin in the coming weeks.

On the softball side, head coach John Rittman’s team continued their best start in the program’s brief four-year history with two-game sweeps over both the then-ranked No. 13 Northwestern Wildcats (4-4) and Ohio State (3-5) as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, moving the team to 10-0 on the year entering Tuesday’s contest against Georgia.

The newly-ranked No. 5 Tigers had their way with Northwestern on Friday’s home-opener, winning 15-2 in five innings of play behind 3-hit days from McKenzie Clark and Aby Vieira. Valerie Cagle was awarded her fourth win of the season after going for four innings, giving up four hits, allowing two earned runs, and striking out seven for the Tigers.

Clemson would complete the short sweep of Northwestern with a 3-2 win on Saturday morning in front of the third record-breaking sized crowd in the last five home games (2,116), with McKenzie Clark’s fifth-inning sac-fly RBI proving to be a big enough cushion hold off a late two-run rally by Northwestern in the sixth inning. Millie Thompson was awarded her third win of the season after going for 5.2 innings and striking out 4.

Later on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers got a 5-1 win against Ohio State behind a complete game on the mound from Valerie Cagle, who also added a 3-run shot in the fourth inning to extend Clemson’s lead to four. The team ended the weekend with a 10-0, five-inning win over Ohio State on Sunday afternoon behind home runs from McKenzie Clark, Valerie Cagle, Caroline Jacobsen, and Maddie Moore, and a 5-inning shutout performance from Regan Spencer to earn her first win of the season.

The brightest spot on the team, without a doubt, has been preseason First-Team All-American Valerie Cagle. Through ten games this season, she leads the Tigers in each of these statistical categories: Batting average (.576), OPS (1.894), hits (19), doubles (5), home runs (6), RBI’s (13), total bases (42), SLG % (1.273), pitching wins (5), innings pitched (19.1), and pitching strikeouts (39).

On the baseball side, opening weekend marked the beginning of a new era in Clemson baseball history under first-year head coach Erik Bakich. Once an assistant coach at Clemson for the 2002 season, he bounced around to a few different schools before most recently serving as the head coach at the University of Michigan from 2013-2022, where he led the Wolverines to two Big Ten Tournament Championships in 2015 and 2022.

Bakich’s club opened up the 2023 season with a convincing 11-3 win over Binghamton, highlighted by Blake Wright’s two home runs in his first two at-bats of the year. In his first career start, Ryan Ammons pitched five complete innings, gave up only three hits, and struck out nine on the way to his first career win.

The Tigers were down two runs late in Saturday’s game but managed to rally and pull out a 3-2 win after scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth, earning Bakich his 400th career win as a coach. Austin Gordon started on the mound for the Tigers and would go for 5.2 innings, but it was Michigan transfer Willie Weiss who earned his first win as a reliever in a Tigers’ uniform.

Clemson’s offense exploded for a 21-hit, 19-run performance in Sunday afternoon’s 19-1 win to complete the sweep of Binghamton, highlighted by Cooper Ingle’s three-run home run and two seven-run innings for the Tigers in the game. Starter Jay Dill was awarded the win after pitching four complete innings, allowing four hits, and striking out three of the sixteen batters he faced.

Through three games, the Tigers sit at third in college baseball with 17 bases stolen and have yet to give up an extra-base hit.

Below are the softball and baseball schedules for the rest of this week.

 

Clemson Softball

2/21: 4:00PM vs Georgia

2/23: 6:00PM @ South Florida

*2/24: 12:00PM neutral site vs University of Illinois-Chicago

*2/25: 9:00AM vs Michigan State

*2/25: 11:30AM vs Tennessee

*2/26: 9:00AM vs Michigan State

*Part of the USF Tournament; games played at neutral site

 

Clemson Baseball

2/21: 4:00PM vs Charlotte

2/24: 4:00PM vs Central Florida

2/25: 2:00PM vs Central Florida

2/26: 1:00PM vs Central Florida

 

As always, be sure to tune into the Clemson Athletic Network - 105.5.97.5, theroarfm.com/listen, or The ROAR App for all live Clemson sports coverage.

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