By Johnny Falduto
Following an in-state non-conference matchup with Furman on Wednesday, Clemson softball will turn its attention to a pivotal ACC series against Florida State in what will be the first-ever top-ten matchup at McWhorter Stadium.
No. 5 Clemson (36-1, 12-0 ACC) heads into Wednesday’s contest with Furman as winners of 22 straight games, most recently a three-game sweep of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, where they outscored the Eagles 23-7.
No. 6 Florida State (29-7, 8-1 ACC) will be fresh off of a three-game sweep of their own, which came in dominant fashion over Georgia Tech last weekend. The Seminoles outscored the Yellow Jackets 23-5 in the series, with two of the wins coming in run-rule fashion.
Seminoles pitcher and infielder Mack Leonard believes the sweep against the Yellow Jackets is exactly what the team needed going into the series with Clemson: “We were all in for each other and playing all-in for each other. This weekend we saw it and we had so much fun. We just want to carry it forward. I think going into Clemson, this is exactly what we needed. It’s awesome to have this momentum, have this energy.”
Should the Tigers take care of business on Wednesday against Furman, the Seminoles would have the opportunity to become the first team to knock off Clemson at home this season. Head Coach John Rittman’s team currently holds a 20-0 record at McWhorter Stadium. The Seminoles are 3-4 in away games.
“I think we’re a very complete team. Obviously, there’s still a lot of season left, but I love the way we’re playing ball right now,” Rittman said last week.
One of the Tigers’ strong suits all season has been their pitching staff, which boasts of the nation’s best team ERA at 0.70. Oklahoma is the next closest with a team ERA of 1.00. Through 37 games this season, the Tigers have allowed just 35 runs.
Coach Rittman credits the success to the group’s depth, led by superstar Valerie Cagle, whose 0.44 ERA across 110.1 innings pitched ranks second in the country. Brooke McCubbin (0.44 ERA, 32.0 IP), Millie Thompson (1.25 ERA, 61.2 IP), and Regan Spencer (0.88 ERA, 24.0 IP) have also been among the best in the ACC all season.
At the plate, the Tigers rank first in the ACC in team batting average (.361), runs (270), and hits (326). They are also tied with Florida State with a conference-leading 65 doubles, and second behind Virginia Tech with 53 home runs.
Scouting Florida State
The Seminole's pitching staff is led by Kathryn Sandercock, who has a 1.16 ERA through 84.2 innings pitched and an 11-3 record in 23 appearances. Allison Royalty (2.15 ERA, 45.2 IP), Makenna Reid (1.49 ERA, 33.0 IP), and Ali Dubois (1.95 ERA, 28.2 IP) have also put in innings from the circle.
Offensively, the Seminoles have seven regular players who hit over the .300 mark, led by Hallie Wacaser (.378), Katie Dack (.361), Kalei Harding (.330) and Jahni Kerr (.345). Six of their hitters also sit above the 1.000 OPS mark: Harding (1.117), Autumn Belviy (1.091), Wacaser (1.032), Krystina Hartley (1.152), Dack (1.213), Kerr (1.075).
When: Thursday, 6 p.m. ET; Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, noon.
Where: McWhorter Stadium
TV: ACC Network (Thursday), ESPN2 (Friday), ACCNX (Saturday)
Radio: 97.5/105.5 The ROAR