The following appears in the March issue of Orange: The Experience.
Clemson softball’s Casey Bigham is making the most of her second chance at a final season.
Two weeks into the Tigers’ second season, graduate transfer Casey Bigham is off and running. So far, Bigham has played a critical role in Clemson softball’s early success. The Tigers are 6-2 in their first eight games of the season, an achievement that includes the program’s second ranked win over then-No. 14 Virginia Tech and a sweep over Georgia Tech in Clemson’s first-ever ACC road series. Bigham was instrumental in Clemson’s victory over the Hokies, going 2-for-3 at the plate with a pair of RBIs and one stolen base.
Although Bigham was admitted into her graduate program at Clemson in September of 2019, her on-field contributions for the Tigers — or for any collegiate softball program in 2021, for that matter — were unforeseeable at the time. This was because, in 2020, Bigham was set to exhaust her fourth and final year of eligibility as a senior infielder for the Furman Paladins. But just like the Tigers’ inaugural season, Bigham’s senior campaign was cut short due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March of 2020.
“There were a lot of emotions because, as a senior, I did not know if I was going to play again,” said Bigham. “At the time, the NCAA had not said anything about an extra year of eligibility, so, during those initial few weeks, I was just trying to process what had happened. It was hard not to think about the fact that my career might be over, and I may never play softball again.”
Over the course of the next few weeks after the 2020 softball season had abruptly ended, Bigham continued to pursue her plans to attend Clemson’s graduate-level accounting program. Clemson was Bigham’s dream school, not only for its academic reputation but also because Bigham had deep family ties to the University. Bigham grew up a Clemson fan after both of her parents, Bryan and Donna Bigham, met and graduated from Clemson in 1989. Bryan Bigham was an equipment manager for the football team under former Clemson Football Head Coach Danny Ford. Additionally, Bigham also had an aunt and uncle graduate from Clemson, too.
“I have had Clemson in my blood since I was very little, so I have been a huge Clemson fan throughout my entire life.”
But the plot twist of Bigham’s story began on March 30, 2020, when the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee voted to grant all 2020 spring student-athletes nationwide an additional year of eligibility.
“I did not really know what that meant for me at the time. Furman does not offer my graduate program, so it was never really a feasible option for me to stay there. I was either going to go to Clemson as a regular student or enter the transfer portal, just to see what my options were.”
And enter the transfer portal she did.
Shortly thereafter, Bigham received a phone call from Clemson Head Coach John Rittman. It did not take Rittman, who guided the Tigers to a 19-8 mark before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of his program’s inaugural season, very long to figure out that Bigham was exactly what his ballclub needed going into year two.
“I found out about Casey through Kyle [Jamieson] and Courtney [Breault], both of whom coached her at Furman,” said Rittman. ”When we saw her name in the transfer portal, I decided to follow up on their recommendation and give Casey a call. I knew after that conversation she would be a great fit for our young program, but I needed some time to make sure we could manage the size of our roster with the addition of another player. Once I felt comfortable with the size of our roster in year two, I was certain that Casey was someone we not only wanted in our program but someone we wanted to help lead our younger players.”
While Rittman got to know Bigham as a person throughout the recruiting process, Bigham’s resume also spoke for itself. While at Furman, Bigham was crowned the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2017 and was a two-time first-team All-SoCon selection (2017-18). In the classroom, Bigham was a model student-athlete, garnering SoCon Academic All-Conference accolades three years in a row (2018-20) and earning a spot on the Dean’s List at Furman in all eight semesters of her undergraduate career.
Once Bigham officially arrived on Clemson’s campus, she recalled both the pleasantries and challenges of adjusting to a new team with people whom she called her teammates yet did not know personally.
“With COVID-19, we were not able to do as much off of the field that we normally would have,” said Bigham. “Fall practice was really important to get to know everybody, and I think the culture and atmosphere that the coaching staff has created made it a very easy transition for me, especially as a grad transfer. It was kind of weird, especially in this new program where I was the oldest. But I was also the newest, and no one knew me. It was kind of a weird position to be in at first, but, honestly, the team was great about it. The coaching staff was great about it. Everyone was just awesome, and it was easy to make friends and mesh with my teammates.”
Thankfully, Bigham and the Tigers have picked up from where the program left off in 2020. However, Bigham recognizes that, while there is still a ways to go as far as the 2021 season is concerned, every moment should be cherished. After all, she — like most of her teammates — knows firsthand just how delicate each game — or even each interaction — with her fellow teammates can be in today’s climate.
“So far, I already have so much to look back on and be grateful for. I can honestly say that I am having so much fun playing and being around the team. That is something I am going to take advantage of because we all know how easily it can be taken away from us. Every time I step out on the field, I am really thankful and having fun with the people I am playing beside.”
No matter how this season pans out, Bigham is poised for success upon graduating with her master’s degree in accounting this summer. The Waxhaw, N.C., native has already locked down a full-time auditor position with one of the largest and most prestigious accounting firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), in Uptown Charlotte, an achievement that emulates her character, work ethic and who Bigham is as a person.
“In the coaching world, Casey is one of those student-athletes you never have to worry about because you know she is always going to do the right thing and have success as a result,” said Rittman. “Her achievements, especially in the classroom, speak for themselves. She is one of the most high-character individuals I have ever coached, and we are very blessed to have her as a member of our program.”