Head Coach Jim Clift's completion of his eighth season saw Western Carolina softball, as the No. 7 seed, ousted No. 2 seed Samford 6-4 in the opening round of the 2019 Southern Conference Championships.
In his eighth season, Clift has had four SoCon First Team selection, eight second-team all-conference, seven all-freshman selections, and four SoCon All-Tournament honorees. Also under Clift, the Catamounts have had a player named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District III team for seven-straight seasons. Western Carolina had its first Academic All-American for softball in 2016 when standout Taylor Sigmon was named to the second team.
The 2019 season had Clift blend veterans and newcomers to become the first Catamount team to defeat a team for the state of California when WCU defeated host Loyola Marymount 3-2. WCU ended the season 21-32 with key victories over Jacksonville State and a doubleheader sweep of Georgia State.
In the 2017 season, with a team only boasting three seniors, Clift made a nice run to close out the season including splitting a doubleheader with ACC foe Virginia Tech and taking the SoCon series from 2016 SoCon Champion Samford – it was the fifth time out of the last six series against the Bulldogs the Catamounts have earned the series win.
Clift also had a pair of SoCon Second team selections, in Hunter Gibbons and Madison Armstrong, along with SoCon All-Freshman honors for Ashlyn Long and Erica Hayes. Armstrong was also named to the SoCon All-Tournament team – the second time in three years a Catamount player as made the all-tournament team. Earlier in the year, Armstrong was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District III First Team.
All told, under Clift, he has had 14 all-conference selections, three players awarded all-tournament honors and a player named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District II team five years in a row.
Clift guided the 2016 club to the best performance since the inception of the team in 2006.
In the 10th anniversary year of the program, Clift helped lead the 2016 team to a 33-24 record, the second most wins in program history, and ended the regular season ranked third in the Southern Conference entering the Southern Conference Championships as the No. 3 seed.
During the course of the 2016 season, Clift eclipsed the 100 career wins mark making him the first head coach in Catamount softball history to go over 100 career wins. He also helped guide senior pitcher Taylor Sigmon to the best season of her career which saw her throw the first perfect game in program history in the 5-0 win over North Carolina A&T on April 13.
Four Catamounts were named all-conference under Clift’s watch including two first-teamers (Sigmon and Crystal Cyr) along with a second-team selection for Karley Harkey and an all-freshman selection for Madison Armstrong. For the second time in his Catamount career, Clift had a player named to the NFCA Mid-East All-Region team with Cyr landing on the second team at second base. He also saw another first when Sigmon was placed on the Academic All-America Second Team, sponsored by CoSIDA.
In October of 2016, the Catamounts garnered the number five spot, for NCAA Division I schools, in the Easton Top-10 All-Academic Team with a team GPA of 3.607. The top five mark is the highest placement for Western Carolina softball since the inception of the list for the Catamounts.
He became the third head coach in Western Carolina softball history, taking over in the summer of 2011. Prior to taking over the head coaching position, he spent two seasons as the assistant coach for the Catamount softball team.
In 2015, Clift helped guide the Catamounts to their second appearance in the semi-finals of the Southern Conference Championships. Courtney Price and Jordan Garrett were named to the SoCon All-Tournament team.
During the 2015 season, Clift also had Taylor Sigmon end the year ranked top-10 in the nation in saves for the second consecutive year and was also a second-year selection on the Capital One Academic All-District III First Team. Taylor Sigmon graduated as the NCAA career saves leader with 20 career saves.
In 2014, Clift had a pair of freshmen, Courtney Price and Kara Salvo, named not only to the Southern Conference All-Conference Team but also the All-Freshmen team. Also in 2014, junior Taylor Sigmon was named to the Capital One Academic All-District III First Team and ended the year ranked fourth in the nation for saves with six. In 2013, Clift led the Catamounts to its first win in the Southern Conference tournament since 2007. Also, then senior Haley Pace was named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-District III First Team, becoming the first player in Catamount softball’s eight-year history to be named to the academic all-district team. In his first year, in 2012, Clift led the team to its best overall record since 2007 and highest seed in the Southern Conference, a sixth seed, also since 2007.
He helped guide senior outfielder Erin Foster to be selected to the NFCA First Team Mideast All-Region team, a first for Catamount softball. Under Clift's watch, Foster was also a Southern Conference First Team selection and ranked 19th in the nation in homeruns for a season with 18.
Clift began his softball coaching career in 1997 and has coached at every level including travel ball, high school, and college. Clift has coached over 30 teams in his softball coaching career. Clift was a 26-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department. While on the SDPD, Clift was on SWAT for 23 years, the last 20 of which he was a member of the full-time hostage rescue unit, the Special Response Team (SRT).
As a member of SRT, Clift served as a lead SWAT instructor for over 20 years. A 1992 graduate of San Diego State University in Sociology and Public Administration, Clift went on to earn his Master's Degree from the Texas Woman's University in Kinesiology in 2007. He also received his 4-star Master Coach Certification from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) in 2006.
Clift, a native of San Diego, California resides in Cullowhee with his wife, Eileen.