Clemson Softball NCAA Tournament Central

The NCAA National Championship Tournament is here, and the Clemson Tigers are ready to roar.

The Clemson Softball team has earned its fourth straight appearance in the NCAA postseason, this time heading to the Tuscaloosa Regional hosted by the No. 14 seed Alabama Crimson Tide.

Clemson (#21, 34-17) will kick off the double-elimination regional on Friday against Southeastern Louisiana (45-13, Southern Conference Champions). The game is set to begin at 2 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ACC Network. Alabama (#18, 33-17), the regional host, will face USC Upstate (30-21, Big South Conference Champions) at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

Regional softball play presents a round-robin format, starting with games between seeds 1 (Alabama) vs 4 (USC Upstate) and seeds 2 (Clemson) vs 3 (Southeastern Louisiana) in round one. The winners of round one will play against each other in round two’s winner’s bracket, while the losers will play immediately after in the loser’s bracket. The loser of the winner’s bracket game will play the winner of the loser’s bracket game, followed by the winner of that game heading to play the winner of the winner’s bracket in the final round.

The victor of the Tuscaloosa Regional will advance to the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional, where they will face the winner of the Knoxville Regional. Below you’ll find a quick breakdown of each team, with an added note on how Clemson could fare against each.

Clemson Tigers: Team Profile

In just their fifth season, the Tigers have made the NCAA Tournament every year they were eligible, starting with their first appearance as the 2021 ACC regular season champions, also at the Tuscaloosa Regional. Clemson has hosted a regional the past two seasons, losing the Super Regionals both years. Their last time out, the Tigers defeated Virginia 8-1 in the ACC tournament quarterfinals before narrowly losing to top-seeded Duke 4-3 in a 10-inning semifinal. Clemson is one of five ACC teams selected for the NCAA Tournament, alongside No. 10 Duke, No. 15 Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Virginia.

Led by all-world and reigning national player of the year Valerie Cagle, Clemson touts a fast, powerful, and experienced team ready for a deep tournament run. Although being on the road for the opening regional was not the result this team had hoped for heading into the 2024 campaign, the bracket sets up nicely for this team – McKenzie Clark, Regan Spencer, Millie Thompson, Maddie Moore, Alia Logoleo, among others – to come out on top. Note that many national prognosticators are picking the Tigers to win this region in “upset” fashion.

Alabama Crimson Tide: Team Profile

For the 25th-consecutive season, Alabama softball will begin its NCAA Tournament journey at Rhoads Stadium as the No. 14 seed. While a surprise to most, the Crimson Tide will host a national regional for the 19th-consecutive year, where they own a 68-12 (.850) record since the format was introduced in 2005. The Tide have advanced onto the Super Regional round in 17 of its 18 opportunities.

Alabama saw a tough year in-conference (10-14 SEC), but will use the experience of playing in a deep league to hopefully carry them to postseason success. At the plate, the Tide are led by sophomore infielder Kenleigh Cahalan (.293, 46 hits) and junior infielder Kali Heivilin (6 HR, 27 RBI). Alabama, as they have all season, will lean on graduate right-hander Kayla Beaver (16 W, 1.78 ERA, 162 K) in the circle.

The Crimson Tide boasts big wins against common Clemson opponents Virginia (2-0), Ole Miss (3-0), Georgia (1-2), and Tennessee (1-2), as well as other significant results against teams from the ACC like Florida State (1-1), Virginia Tech ( 1-1), and Georgia Tech (2-0). Most games Alabama plays are low-scoring, leaning on pitching and defense to bail out a so-so offense. With that in mind, Clemson will need to prove it can hit well against elite SEC pitching (a woe that some would say haunts them in big games this year) to see regional success against the Tide.

Southeastern Louisiana Lady Lions: Team Profile

Southeastern clinched its spot in the 64-team field in dramatic fashion. Southland Conference Tournament MVP Lexi Johnson hit a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Lady Lions an 8-7 championship victory. This will be the first ever NCAA tournament appearance for Southeastern Louisiana.

We’re excited to have the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve had a chance to rest and recover from the conference tournament, and we’re ready to put our best product on the field this week and make Louisiana proud.

9th year SLU head coach Rick Fremin

Sunday’s selection is the capper for the winningest three-year stretch in the history of the SLU program. Southeastern, in the midst of its third straight season of 40 wins or more, is 132-43 since the start of the 2022 campaign. In 2024, The Lady Lions tout an impressive team batting average of .343, behind the performances of senior outfielder Ka’Lyn Watson (.402, 37 RBI) and senior infielder Lexi Johnson (.325, 7 HR). Pitching is held up by seniors Ellie DuBois (1.41 ERA, 65 K) and Cera Blanchard (1.58 ERA, 102 K). The team’s ERA is only 1.82, seventh best in the country.

Notably common to Clemson, SLU beat Syracuse (1-0) and Ole Miss (1-1). Some other results for the Lady Lions include losses to LSU and Texas A&M, as well as a final-series sweep by conference foe McNeese before winning their conference tournament. Another team Clemson cannot take lightly due to their depth in the pitching circle, everything else at face value says the Tigers have the upper hand here.

USC Upstate: Team Profile

After making history on Sunday afternoon with its 5-1 conference championship win to become the first USC Upstate team to win a Big South Tournament Championship, the USC Upstate softball team is heading back to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2017. This will be the program’s sixth NCAA Regional appearance, its fourth time going to Alabama for the event.  

I’m really excited to be in the Tuscaloosa Regional! Coach Murphy really puts on a good one. This is great growth for our program and culture. We might surprise some people… I’m really looking forward to it!

USC Upstate coach Chris Hawkins

Upstate softball had another exceptional season, after going 30-21 overall and 13-5 in conference play. The Spartans collected both the Big South regular season and tournament championships in 2024. Seven Spartans received Big South postseason honors, which included the likes of junior outfielder Denver Lauer (.335, .872 OPS) and senior infielder Celeste Delorenzo (1st team all-conference, .787 OPS). Head coach Chris Hawkins was also named the Big South Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons. Pitching for USC Upstate will be All-conference freshman Sierra Maness (2.33 ERA, 18 CG, 124 K), who will lead the Spartans into Tuscaloosa supported by senior Alyssa Kelly (7-2 W-L, 2.66 ERA).

Being right up the road in Spartanburg, USC Upstate and Clemson shared quite a few opponents in 2024 – including games where the Spartans played Furman (1-1), Georgia (0-1), South Carolina (0-1), and Winthrop (3-3). Other notable results include games against Kentucky (0-2) and Auburn (0-2). Albeit another overmatched opponent, this team did beat the Furman team Clemson couldn’t, and as we’ve learned with this year’s iteration of the Tigers, anything can happen. Look for Clemson to win comfortably if they get a matchup with the Spartans, but don’t count on it.

Photo Credit: USC Upstate Athletics

Regional action in Tuscaloosa gets started this Friday, with Clemson playing game one against Southeastern Louisiana at 2pm EST (1pm CT) on ACCN. Win or lose, the Tigers will play again on Saturday – at either 3pm or 5:30pm, where they may have to play again at 8pm. Win those, and we’ll see you on Sunday.

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