Is it time to Panic?
After being swept at home against the Florida State Seminoles, the Clemson Tigers are worried their special softball season may not live up to initial expectations. Despite beginning the year at a nation’s best 37-1, Clemson would drop three straight games at home against the Seminoles this past weekend.
Furthermore, with the exception of game 3, which ended in a one run win for the Noles, these games were not all that close. The Seminoles outscored Clemson 14-3 in their matchups, beating the Tigers soundly in all facets of the game.
- Game 1: Noles win 7-0
- Game 2: Noles win 4-1
- Game 3: Noles win 3-2
Following the series, softball fans across the nation criticized Clemson’s showing, arguing they were overrated coming into the matchup, and never really deserved to be in the national championship discussion.
While Tiger fans hate to admit it, they themselves are wondering the same thing. Is this team not as good as we thought they were? Was this fairytale season, in actuality, just a fairytale?
Let’s take a step back, shall we?
Imagine if, back in February, someone told you that come April, Clemson’s softball team would be 37-4 and regarded as one of the best teams in the country, one that many believe have a chance to make, potentially even win, the women’s college world series in 2023.
If someone told you this before the start of the season, would you have believed them?
Sure, many expected Clemson’s softball team to be good in the preseason. Many expected them to be great even! But this squad isn’t just great. They are remarkable.
Prior to the Florida State series, Clemson had only lost a single game: a 1 run neutral site loss to a Top 10 Tennessee team. Outside of that loss, Clemson outscored opponents 275 to 35, winning by an average of nearly 6.5 runs per game.
Let’s take an even broader look at the nature of the sport. Like baseball, softball can be an extremely streaky game. Sometimes, the ball just falls for a team, and never seems to fall for another. Sometimes the ball gets hit hard, but right at an infielder, or contrarily, weak contact leads to bloop singles.
None of this is to imply Florida State did not fairly win the series. On the contrary, the Seminoles beat Clemson, and it wasn’t close. This is only to present the argument that a ball team’s quality cannot be judged by a single series alone.
Such is the case with Clemson. Even following the disappointment that was that Florida State series, the Tigers remain one of the top teams in the country. A team that still maintains one of the highest winning percentages and one of the best run differential margins in the nation. A team that, even after the embarrassment of this past weekend, still has the potential to compete for and win a national championship.
Florida State is a great team. One of the best in the country. Clemson should not hang their heads in this loss, but instead, use it as fuel to refocus and better themselves.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Complacency can kill a ball team.
And after winning 37 of 38 matchups, it may be fair to argue that the Tigers got used to winning, and perhaps, began to take it for granted.
Many Clemson fans probably feel it would be best to forget about these games, to “shake it off,” and look to the next matchup.
No. These Tigers should remember this series.
When a team is as good as Clemson’s is, maintaining an expectation for perfection can be difficult when facing off against lesser competition. It’s hard to fight through long at bats and deliver your best pitches when you’re already up 7 runs. But if this team hopes to win a championship, that is the level at which they must consistently compete.
The FSU series should serve as a wake-up call for this team, reminding them that there are teams out there just as good as they are. To beat these teams, they must work tirelessly, in practice and in games, to reach their fullest potential.
The softball team should have a great opportunity to right the ship against rival South Carolina. Despite being a road game, this is a matchup the Tigers should win. Ending their losing streak against a rival will help build momentum, and from there, hopefully the team can refocus and get back to their winning ways moving forward.
The Season Isn’t Over
The season isn’t over, not by a long shot. There’s still plenty of softball to play, and, in all likelihood, this team will get a second shot at the Noles in the ACC championship tournament.
In a 53 game regular season, it is unfair to judge a team based on 3 contests alone. The FSU series provides context, but does not discredit this team, nor does it eliminate them from contention. The Tigers can still accomplish everything they hope to this season, but they need to start now.
Hopefully tonight, Clemson fans will see the beginning of this rebound in a big win over their rival in Columbia. First pitch is set for 6:00 pm, and the game will be broadcast on SEC+.