Clemson found out their NCAA Tournament path on Sunday evening. (Clemson athletics photo/Charissa Coleman)
CLEMSON – During Sunday evening’s NCAA softball tournament selection show, players and coaches on the Clemson softball team breathed a big sigh of relief when they saw they weren’t headed to Tuscaloosa and then let loose with screams of joy when they learned they would be hosting .
The Clemson softball team will host an NCAA Regional for the first time in program history as the 16 host sites for the 2022 postseason were revealed on Sunday. The Tigers were selected as the No. 10 national seed and will host games at McWhorter Stadium beginning on Friday, May 22.
The Tigers (39-15) are the No. 1 seed in the Clemson Regional and set to face UNC Wilmington (32-13) in their opening game of the double-elimination regional on Friday at noon. The Auburn Tigers (39-15) will play Louisiana (45-11) following the game and will play at 2:30 pm
The winner of the Clemson Regional will move onto the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional, May 27-29, against the winner of the Stillwater Regional. The Women’s College World Series will be played in Oklahoma City, Okla., June 3-10.
Many in the program felt like the Tigers should have hosted last season, but the tournament sent them to Tuscaloosa as the No. 2 seed in the Alabama regional. The Crimson Tide beat Clemson twice and eventually played in the College World Series. The Crimson Tide will once again host, but so will the Tigers.
“I think after we got past Tuscaloosa’s Regional, I had a sigh of relief,” said infielder Alia Logoleo. “We were so blown away to see our name pop up, especially with the number that was in front of it.”
Second baseman Cammy Pereira felt better once she saw another ACC team – Notre Dame – come off the board.
“I think any time you see ACC teams pop up, it’s exciting, so we were excited to see them (Notre Dame) go before us,” Pereira said. “Last year, I think we were really caught off guard, I would say, seeing our name so early so to see another ACC team a little bit earlier than us was definitely reassuring.”
Head coach John Rittman said he can’t wait to show the Clemson softball facility to the rest of the country.
“Very exciting. It’s really an exciting time for our program, ”Rittman said. “We’re three years in existence and have the opportunity to host a regional. I’m just so proud of our team, our coaching staff, our support staff. It’s a huge honor to host a regional, to be one of 16 teams in the country and to be able to showcase our wonderful facility, our great fans and just what we’ve built here. ”
Clemson beat Virginia Tech – the conference tourney’s No. 1 seed and national No. 3 seed – in last week’s ACC Softball Championship, and lost to eventual ACC Champion FSU in the championship game. All-everything player Valerie Cagle says the Tigers are confident they can play with anybody.
“I think this week especially, playing these teams,” Cagle said. “Virginia Tech, we played earlier in the year and didn’t do as well and then we beat them. We’ve been competitive with Florida State every time. It definitely gives us a lot of confidence that we can be competitive with those top teams.
“I think our home fans have wanted this for a while. They really wanted it last year and got really disappointed. I think they’re going to bring all of that energy that’s been building for a while. ”
Pereira said she hopes the Tiger faithful show up loud and ready to support the program.
“I think we saw the difference yesterday playing Florida State in a neutral site. We played them three games in their home stadium and you can definitely feel the big moments feel 10 times bigger in their stadium as compared to yesterday just being at that neutral site, ”Pereira said. “They had big moments and they’re loud and there’s that deflation whenever that happens but it’s 10 times stronger whenever you’re in someone else’s environment.
“I think being able to have that on our side this time is going to be something that’s really helpful for us because our environment is unmatched and we’re pretty close with a lot of the big stadiums and the big fans and the big moments, so it’s definitely going to play to our advantage. It’s exciting. ”
Logoleo said last year’s experience will pay dividends this season.
“Any experience we gain is going to help us. Tuscaloosa has one of the craziest environments I’ve ever played in, ”Logoleo said. “To have that experience that last year and to be here and have a similar environment with our own fans, I’m so excited for it. I think we’re ready for it. ”
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