Clemson Softball: USF Invitational Preview

The undefeated No. 5 Clemson Tigers softball team will compete in the University of South Florida Invitational beginning on Thursday, February 23, 2023, with final action on Sunday, February 26, 2023. The Tigers will take on host USF, UIC, Michigan State, and No. 11 Tennessee.

After handling No. 14 Georgia 7-1 Tuesday, the Tigers look to continue their undefeated season (11-0) as they head to Tampa, FL, to participate in the USF Invitational this weekend. As Valerie Cagle continues to dominate offensively and defensively this season with a .556 batting average and 0.77 ERA, It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes Coach John Rittman makes to the starting lineup. The saying, “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” should be the motto for this season’s coaching decisions. Opposing pitchers have been struggling against the power of McKenzie Clark, Maddie Moore, and Valerie Cagle to start a game, as the three players combine for 21 walks.  It will be interesting to see how the opposition continues to deal with the killer lineup of bats the Tigers have this season.

Below is a brief breakdown of the opponents the Tigers will face this weekend.

Who: The University of South Florida Bulls, The University of Illinois Chicago Flames, The Tennessee Volunteers, and The Michigan State Spartans

When: Thursday at 6 pm vs USF, Friday at 12:30 pm vs UIC, Saturday at 9:00 am vs Michigan State, Saturday at 11:30 vs No. 11 Tennessee, and Sunday at 9:00 am vs Michigan State

Where: USF Softball Stadium, located in Tampa, FL.

University of South Florida (USF): Thursday at 6 pm is the first matchup between Clemson and USF in softball. The Bulls haven’t had an ideal start to the season, with a 2-7 record in 2023. Pitcher Payton Dixon leads USF with a 2.21 ERA in nineteen innings. Meghan Sheehan holds the top bat with a .375 average, totaling nine hits in twenty-four at-bats. 

University of Illinois Chicago (UIC): The Tigers face off against the Flames at 12:30 in their first and only action on Friday.  UIC is still seeking its first victory of the year, compiling an 0-8 record thus far.  Christina Toniolo is the leading pitcher for UIC, with sixteen strikeouts and two complete game performances this season. 

Michigan State: The Spartans of Michigan State have a 5-4 record this season.  Outfielder Mandy Esman is a player of concern for the Tigers, as her bat has been hot with a .345 batting average and ten hits on the season. Six of Esman’s hits have been for extra bases and ten RBI.  Pitcher Ashley Miller leads the Spartans with a 1.28 ERA and forty-nine strikeouts in thirty-eight innings this season.

Tennessee: No. 11 Tennessee has only lost one game this season, making their record 6-1.  The Volunteers, like the Tigers, have also played Northwestern, winning the game 6-0.  Pitcher Ashley Rogers commands the circle for Tennessee, giving up a 1.26 ERA with twenty-three strikeouts.  Outfielder Kiki Milloy and infielder Mackenzie Donihoo are the best offensive weapons for the Volunteers, with double-digit hits on the season.  

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