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John Rittman breaks down inaugural softball season before abrupt end

March 20, 2020

A few weeks ago, we sat down for an exclusive interview with Clemson softball head coach John Rittman. The inaugural season was off to an incredible start before the COVID-19 virus put a halt to all spring sports.

Today Coach Rittman will speak with the media about the season coming to an end. Here’s what he had to say just before the inaugural season came to an end. 

*The following are unedited transcripts

On the quick pace of the season:

"We're definitely excited about the season. (We) played a lot of ball games in the first four weeks and excited about the direction our program is headed."

On building a new program from scratch:

"When you're starting to program brand new I think there's a lot of people that are a little bit unsure and maybe don't know the sport and know that it's kind of a fast-paced game but want to get out and see it firsthand. I think a lot of our fans have a little bit of history of the sport, whether it be on TV or knowing a daughter or a relative that's played the game. But certainly has definitely helped us and to have a beautiful facility that we're able to play in and the fans are able to watch our sport is huge."

On the popularity of the new sport in Clemson:

"I definitely don't want to get into the comparison game because I think each women's sport has its own uniqueness and its own fan base. From our standpoint it's unique in the fact that it's shorter distances than baseball, the pitchers are different than baseball, some of the rules are a little bit different. It's just a very compact fast game in comparison to men's baseball." 

On the excitement and support:

"I do believe that we have some of the best athletes in the country playing our sport. When you combine the offensive home runs, the excitement of running the bases, and the spectacular plays defensively-- the way that our players pitch and the way that they can be very dominant in the circle,  I just think it's a unique game and it's got a unique place and in sports."

On the timing of each game:

"It really fits the TV window too. Our games last about two hours, maybe a little over two hours and for ESPN and the ACC Network that fits the time slot that they're looking for perfectly."

On being able to throw pitchers on short rest:

"The underhand throwing motion, the arm mechanically is designed to move that direction, more so thank overhand. So I believe, without getting too scientific, I believe in some more natural throwing motion and there's less torque on the arm. From our perspective, it's more about your mentality and your legs. If your legs are in shape and you had the endurance to do it. We do have some pitch count things that we look and the effectiveness of the pitcher because we don't want to wear them out either. It's a game where our starter could throw three days in a row without many problems or issues."

On Valerie Cagle:

"Just phenomenal. She someone that we knew was going to be a special player. We just had to get her into school and get her comfortable with her environment. Bring her along slowly. She had an injury in the fall, so she had a setback. We were able to kind of slow the process down for her, but it's remarkable what she's done in her freshman year."

"When we recruited her we knew we had a five-tool player. She's a kid that's going to play great defense when she's not pitching. She played centerfield for us. She's got a great overhand throw. She hits for average, she hits for power, and she pitches so from a program that's looking to start, she was a perfect fit for us. We're just glad she chose Clemson."

"What's really made me more impressed is how she's handled herself off the field. She's really learning how to be a team player and a great teammate and that bodes well for us in the future, because you can have your best player be a leader that's a great start."

On their impressive start to the season:

"It starts in the circle and you can't be a good team without good pitching. We have three freshmen pitchers that have been very effective and kind of complement each other. Valerie Cagle, who throws the ball really hard and, and goes up and down and has pretty good off-speed pitch. Then we have Logan (Caymol) who is a little over six feet tall and she doesn't throw as hard as Cagle, but she's got really good movement on her pitches. Then we've got Emma Whitfield, that kind of spins it and keeps hitters off-balance. So all three of those complement each other well and as you said, they've overachieved a little bit in their first year. They've taken a few bumps and have learned from their mistakes, which as a coach, that's the biggest key with the team. Are we going to get better as the season goes along? Are we going to learn from our mistakes? Are we going to be mature and handle ourselves you know, physically mentally and emotionally? I think our freshmen have done a great job of that."

On the contributions of transfers:

"It's really a tribute to our transfers and the leadership that they've provided. That's been a huge part of building this program. We knew we had to turn over the scholarships. We couldn't replace 15 players four years from now, we had to get some transfers in here and we've got a great group of upperclassmen that have played at Division 1 level, they've experienced some of the things that our freshmen haven't and they definitely help that process along."

On the new stadium and fans:

"On top of the venue, it's the electric atmosphere that our fans are providing. Dan Radakovich has really had this vision of building great facilities at Clemson and we're blessed to be in a state of the art stadium. We are blessed to have such great fans that give us this home-field advantage."
"From a recruiting standpoint, when we recruited the players here, we were just showing them pictures and giving them a vision of what it was going to be like, but now, when recruits step in the stadium and they see the field and the first-class amenities. Our groundskeepers, Mike Echols and Daniel McKenney and all their staff do a great job and you walk in and it's like a professional stadium. Now the recruits can see all of that so it's definitely going to help us on that front as well."

On groundbreaking the program:

"We are very blessed and humbled to be a part of history and this pioneer program. It's been fun and looking for a lot of good times ahead."

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John Rittman breaks down inaugural softball season before abrupt end

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