IS THIS THE YEAR?
The field is set for the ACC Softball Tournament, and the Clemson Tigers are prepared to make a run for the program’s first Conference Tournament Championship.
Clemson enters the tournament as the no. 3 seed, thus earning them a first round bye. The Tigers are set to begin play against no. 6 seeded North Carolina on Thursday, May 11th, at 7:30 pm. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network, as will each game in the first 3 rounds. The championship game will be shown on ESPN2.
Despite a less than ideal finish to the regular season—Clemson dropped three of their final four games—the Tigers are still ranked No.9 in USA Today/NFCA D1 Top 25 Coaches Poll, and their star-studded roster gives them as good a chance as any to win the title.
However, if the Tigers hope to earn the program’s first championship, they will have to change their luck from recent years.
“Close, but no Cigar”
Remember, Clemson’s softball program is still very young. Their first season, 2020, was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, as play was canceled after just 27 games.
In the program’s first full season, however, the Clemson Tigers won the ACC regular season championship with a 29-5 conference record. They not only entered the conference tournament as the no. 1 overall seed, but they fought through Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech to reach the program’s first conference championship game.
Unfortunately, however, the Tigers’ offense fell short against the Blue Devils, as Duke would secure a tight 1-0 win to claim their first ever ACC tournament title.
Last year’s tournament was equally as painful for Clemson fans. After defeating no.1 seeded Virginia Tech to advance to their second straight championship game, the Tigers faced off against the Florida State Seminoles, who had won 6 straight tournaments prior to Duke’s 2021 win.
After trailing 3-1 after just the first inning, the Tigers would come back to take a slim 5-4 lead. But the Seminoles rallied from the 1 run deficit, scoring 4 runs in the 6th, and ultimately defeated Clemson 8-6, winning their 7th title in the last 8 years.
Though their first two appearances in the tournament ended just short of their goal, the Tigers should not feel discouraged. Earning a berth in back-to-back championship games, let alone in their first two opportunities to do so, is a very promising sign.
If the Tigers can fight their way to a third straight appearance, perhaps Clemson can earn the program’s first title in 2023.
The path to the title is clear for the Tigers: win 3 games.
Clemson’s first matchup will be against the no.6 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, one of the few ACC teams the Tigers have not played in 2023. North Carolina finished the regular season just below .500 at 26-27.
Though Clemson has not played their best ball as of late, they should be favored to win this matchup. If they do, they will face the winner of Duke vs ND/GT. From there, the Tigers will need to play at their best if they hope to advance.
While the Tigers have suffered a decline in their play, one must remember: this is the same exact team which began the year 37-1. If the Tigers can get hot, make competitive pitches, and work good at bats, perhaps this could be the year they bring home the title.