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The Last Inning

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The Last Inning

How Two Life-Long Georgia Natives Built a Legacy with Clemson Softball

Cecelia Macchione

Almost 100 miles from Clemson’s campus sits Buford, Georgia – home of two of Clemson’s sixth-year softball stars, JoJo Hyatt and Arielle Oda. The dynamic duo predates their high school days at Buford High School as their softball careers started together at the age of 12 in a recreational league. With over 200 games played, while amassing a 165-48 record through the 2024 preseason and during the first five years in program history, Hyatt and Oda are destined to leave a lasting legacy on the Clemson Softball program.

Over their 10-year friendship, the bond is unlike any other that is hard for others to replicate with teammates that they don’t meet until they reach campus as freshmen. “JoJo understands me, and I understand her on a different level than everyone else,” said Oda. The duo has been there for each other through all the ups and downs that come with an extensive playing career. “It has been pretty cool to see Arielle grow into the young woman she is now. We have been through so much together, whether it is personal or on the field, we can count on each other no matter what,” said Hyatt.

During their six years at Clemson, Hyatt and Oda have made many memories. Highlights of their time in the Orange and Regalia include playing in the program’s inaugural game, winning the ACC Regular Season Championship in 2021, advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals in back-to-back seasons and making three NCAA Tournament appearances. “As a program that was just starting, when we won the ACC Regular Season Championship, it was so amazing,” said Hyatt. For Oda, her favorite memory came in the program’s third season. “Our first-time hosting and winning regionals was really special. Experiencing it with the girls on the field and having all the fans here, with the berm and concourse packed to the brink at McWhorter Stadium, was really special.”

When asked what they hoped their lasting legacy would be, it was the idea of “being known by leading by example. The chemistry that is needed for a team to be successful takes a lot of work that we have invested into this program. Women need to have fun to win. Men have to win to have fun. There needs to be passion and purpose with each teammate on the field and off. Be excited for the little moments that both the team and individuals accomplish,” said Hyatt. While Oda hopes to encourage future softball players to “do things the right way. Be a team with great chemistry and want what is best for the team. Obviously, everyone wants to play; that is what we came here to do, but only nine people can be in that lineup. If you think about what is best for this team and for the program to grow, whether that be helping your pitcher get ready, talking to your batters or watching film…encompassing that the team comes first and not yourself leads to success where it matters.”

“Absolutely incredible” is the phrase repeated by the duo when describing every aspect of their experience in the Orange and Regalia. Building a program from the ground up is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to amass the resume they have is even more impressive. “Seeing the team and culture grow from the ground up is not something very many people get to be apart of these days. Nobody ever expected us to be where we are this quickly,” said Oda. This team has come a long way, “In the first year, there were only seven of us that made up ‘Team 0’, and it was hard to trust the process and know that ‘Team 1’ was right around the corner. To see not only a stadium, but truly a program, built from the ground up with new players joining the Tiger family to allow it to blossom is amazing,” said Hyatt.

While Hyatt and Oda only have the 2024 season left, they are prepared to soak in every second this season and team has to offer. “The season goes by really fast, and the past six years for us have flown by…we’re never going to forget these memories,” stated Oda. Do not be surprised if you see these seniors lingering around the softball facilities after games or practice, as Hyatt intends to “embrace every second from the locker room music to the training room talks, pregame bullpen warmups, bus rides, all the travel, and everything in between.”

When Head Coach John Rittman built this program, Oda “didn’t really know where the program was headed…it has now become more realistic as time has passed over the years to set those big goals of wanting to win the World Series and the ACC Tournament. It has been incredible seeing us compete with the best teams in the country and be named alongside them when talking about elite softball programs.” Since the team’s inception, Hyatt has reaffirmed that “to see the success has been absolutely incredible. We set the foundation with our core values and built upon those while setting that standard, which has attested to our success.”

Needless to say, JoJo Hyatt and Arielle Oda have always been all in during their Clemson Experience. Their final months as Tigers will not be taken for granted, as they are prepared to knock down the door and bring success to Clemson.