Shock the World: Rittman says Tigers were well on their way to making objective come true

by - Senior Writer -
Freshman Valerie Cagle was a bright spot for the Tigers.
Freshman Valerie Cagle was a bright spot for the Tigers.

CLEMSON – Just when the Clemson softball team was poised to shock the world, the season ended abruptly.

Head coach John Rittman met with the media via teleconference Friday – the first of its kind in Clemson history – in a nod to the strange series of events that canceled spring athletics.

Rittman told the media that one of his program’s objectives in its inaugural season was to “shock the world.” The Tigers had vaulted out to a 19-8 overall record and were 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference after the first two conference series of the season. That record included a 14-2 mark at home.

The team was buying into the mantra.

“I think how our team bought into that,” Rittman said. “We had a great culture and this team was a very tightknit group of players and coaches and we certainly liked our chances and that’s honestly what we were shooting for this year.”

The Tigers had also won 12 of their last 13 games, including a win over ranked Georgia.

“One of our goals was to beat a ranked opponent (Georgia was ranked No. 14). Another was to win an ACC series and we won our first two series,” Rittman said. “I think our team had a lot of momentum and a tough schedule left to play in the ACC, but anytime you have a team with confidence that’s growing and improving as the season goes along you have a chance (to contend).”

Rittman said his team had already overcome adversity in the form of injuries. USC Upstate transfer Ansley Gilstrap was penciled in as the starting shortstop but was out before the season started. The team also lost starting Morgan Johnson and utility player Madison May, who started four of the first six games, also to injuries.

Gilstrap and the university will petition the NCAA to receive a sixth year of eligibility, and it’s unknown if senior MK Bonamy – who transferred in from Notre Dame – will come back next season. The NCAA announced it would grant spring season student-athletes an additional season.

Rittman said he was thankful for the fans and the community for making the abbreviated inaugural season a success.

“This season was a long time coming, our coaches, staff, and administration put a lot of effort, energy and time into making this season a reality,” Rittman said. “To get off to such an excellent start and to have the crowds and support we had was absolutely amazing. We really had an electric atmosphere every game we played there. For that to end abruptly was kind of a shock.”

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