Note: The following appears in the Furman gameday football program
It has been nearly 18 months since March 14, 2017, when the Clemson athletic department announced it would add intercollegiate softball. Since then, the program has hit several milestones, beginning with the initial approval for the construction of a softball stadium on campus in October 2017, followed by the November 2017 hiring of a well-known and highly-decorated veteran head coach, John Rittman, to lead the program in preparation for its first competitive season in the spring of 2020.
On Nov. 8, Tiger softball hit another milestone, announcing the program’s first signee, Logan Caymol. A week later, four more players, Hannah-Jo Hyatt, Shelby Kelley, Kyndall Murray and Arielle Oda, signed a national letter of intent to comprise the class of 2018, the first recruiting class in the history of Clemson softball.
In the past 10 months, Rittman has hit the ground running, hiring a coaching staff, hitting the recruiting trail, hosting camps and clinics, attending meetings regarding the planning and construction of the stadium and facility and spending time meeting and speaking to members of the Clemson community and university.
In December, Kyle Jamieson joined the staff as associate head coach after spending five seasons as head coach at Furman. Rittman rounded out his core staff with assistant coach Courtney Breault and director of operations Jeannie Murphy in July. Breault coached under Jamieson at Furman for four years, and as a player at Nebraska, she was a two-time All-Big Ten Conference selection who led the Cornhuskers to a Women’s College World Series appearance in 2013. Murphy, who most recently worked in compliance and athletic academic services at USC Beaufort, was a four-year letterwinner who went to four-straight NCAA Tournaments at Oklahoma from 2006-09.
When the Clemson Board of Trustees met in April, it approved the next step towards the softball program’s facility. It will be located in Jervey Meadows beyond the Thomas F. Chapman Grandstands at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The $13 million facility will have a stadium that seats approximately 1,000 fans along with an indoor facility, training facility, coaches offices, a locker room and team lounge.
August brought more firsts for Clemson softball, as the class of 2018 moved into Douthit Hills, the brand-new, ultra-modern residential village on campus, which includes seven residence halls with over 1,600 beds for both upperclassmen and first-year students. Douthit Hills also features a central building, the Hub, which houses several dining options, a bookstore and fitness center.
On Aug. 22, six softball freshmen started classes at Clemson. Caymol (P), Hyatt (C) and Oda (SS) are all from Buford, Ga., and were teammates at Buford High School who also played for the East Cobb Bullets. Kelley (P/INF) hails from Louisville, Ky., attended Ballard High School and played with the Louisville Lady Sluggers. Murray (OF) is from Lake Jackson, Texas, and she played for Brazoswood High School and Scrap Yard Internationals. Grace Young (OF) is a Greensboro, N.C., native who played for High Point Christian Academy and the Carolina Cardinals, and she is the Tigers’ sixth freshman.
Ansley Gilstrap (INF) is a native of Blythewood, S.C., and transferred this summer after three seasons and multiple all-conference honors at USC Upstate.
The Tigers’ first seven softball players will spend 2018-19 training and developing on the practice field and in the weight room, and they will also bond with each other and the staff as the group begins to form a team. The student-athletes also have the benefit of spending the year acclimating to academic requirements, as well as life as college students.
As the players and staff prepare for first pitch in February 2020, it’s a moment Rittman has already considered.
“A lot of work will have been put into getting the program underway by a lot of people, so there will be a great sense of gratitude for everyone who made this possible for our program, and especially for the young women who make up that first team. Seeing everything come to fruition and stepping on the field with the uniform on to represent Clemson…it’s going to be a very special day.”