The Clemson Tigers ended the 2022 season reaching their first ever Super Regional with their appearance in Stillwater, ultimately losing twice to Oklahoma State to close out the season. Hopefully, the 2023 squad can continue the upward trajectory of the freshly minted softball program. Although many fixtures on John Rittman’s team have moved on, there is plenty of talent remaining and incoming to get Tiger softball fans excited for the upcoming season. Let’s take a look at some of the returning players along with Coach Rittman’s transfer students and a shiny new recruit that will bring balance to the 2023 Tigers Roster.
Valerie Cagle: What can’t be said about Valerie Cagle? The do-it-all phenom for the Tigers has been electric since day 1 stepping on campus. With a cannon for an arm that reaches 72 mph consistently, I am looking for more variety from #72 this year. Does she have a reliable second pitch to go along with the heater? This season will answer this question early and often.
Millie Thompson: One of the nastiest change-ups in college softball that has significant left-to-right movement. She plays with extreme confidence that feeds her teammates. One of the few questions for #87 is can she develop another pitch to go with her offspeed?
McKenzie Clark: Fielding is outstanding with a rocket-arm that can throw someone out at any base. Solid hitter with a career .341 hitting percent. She has moved in and out of the leadoff role for the Tigers but it is my opinion that she is better suited for later on in the lineup.
Incoming talent(1 HS recruit, 3 grad transfers):
Marena Knowles: INF/OF who hits lefty. Very talented batter. She can play 1B, SS, 3B, and in the outfield. The only recruit in Coach Rittman’s class for 2022. I am very excited for more lefties to make it into the batting order as I have felt this has been a weakness for Clemson softball thus far. Knowles is already a winner having led her HS team to 4 straight State Championships.
Caroline Jacobsen (Graduate Transfer, Duke), OF, She holds a .294 career average with a .372 on-base percentage and .580 slugging percentage through 191 games. She has 140 career hits, including 33 home runs, 31 doubles and three triples with 116 RBI and 108 runs scored. Jacobsen led the Blue Devils in five categories during the shortened 2020 COVID season: Slugging Percentage (.789), Hits (28), Home Runs (9), Total Bases (60) and RBI (31).
Ally Miklesh (Graduate Transfer, Wisconsin), OF: 2022 Second Team All-Big Ten She finished the 2022 season with a .328 average with 40 hits, 20 RBI and a .427 on-base percentage. Miklesh led the Badgers in 2022 with 11 stolen bases and was second on the team in batting average and runs scored. She maintained a .276 career average with 115 hits and 79 runs scored. She also drew 53 career walks and stole 40 bases, including a season-high 19 in 2021. Having started in 164 games for Wisconsin over four seasons, Miklesh is no stranger to the field.
Reedy Davenport (Graduate Transfer, Florida Gulf Coast), INF: Credited with only three errors in 150 total chances at shortstop (2022). She holds a .291 career batting average with 138 hits, including 33 doubles, 11 home runs and three triples. Having appeared in 169 games and holding a .443 career slugging percentage and .353 on-base percentage with 84 RBI and 73 runs scored, Davenport brings some much needed experience in the infield which should lead to less defensive errors overall which was an area in need of improvement from a year ago.
With a group of hardened veterans, a few essential transfers, and a standout high school recruit, this could very well be the best assimilation of talent Coach Rittman has had since the inception of the Clemson Softball program in 2020. While the experience of players such as Guimbarda, Pereira, and Russ will be missed, the team has improved overall in my opinion and should be a presence in the postseason.