Feb. 16, 2012
CLEMSON, SC – Richie Shaffer hears all the talk. He understands all the questions surrounding #16 Clemson as it opens the 2012 season Friday against UAB centers around the squad’s bats.
The Tigers, who are coming off a 43-20 year in 2011, have to replace five of the eight position players in the field last year, including ACC Player of the Year Brad Miller, who was a first-team All-American at shortstop. Clemson must also replace All-ACC outfielders Will Lamb and Jeff Schaus from a lineup that helped the Tigers win 25 of their last 30 regular season games.
But Shaffer says don’t get fooled by the new lineup and think it’s going to struggle. “I think we are going to be an all-around good offense,” the junior said. “We are going to have a lot of speed. We are going to be a fast team as always. Hopefully, we are going to put a lot of balls in the gap and beat a lot of balls out.
“We are going to be an exciting offense to watch. I don’t think we are going to be a big bruising team that is hitting 10 to 20 home runs apiece, but we will run some balls out of the yard. We will definitely be a gap-to-gap kind of team that will steal a lot of bags. We will be a really fun, high-paced offense.”
The guys that will be counted on to make this year’s offense fun, will be Shaffer at third base, along with Spencer Kieboom at catcher, Jon McGibbon at first, Jay Baum at second, Jason Stolz at short, Tyler Slaton in left field, Thomas Brittle in center, Brad Felder in right and Phil Pohl as the designated hitter and utility player.
“It’s really hard to tell in scrimmages. It’s tough,” Clemson Head Coach Jack Leggett said about his offense. “If you hit the ball well, then you worry about your pitching. If your pitching is really good and you don’t hit, then you are worried about your hitting. So it is tough to be happy.”
But Leggett is happy about the progress his new lineup has made since practice began a few weeks back. The Clemson coach says he wants to see his team play well, and play with a lot of energy when they take the field this weekend.
“I want to see us play with energy everyday on the field and in every inning the whole weekend,” he said. “I want to see us continue to get better and play good-team ball. I want to see us execute on offense. I want to see those guys go out there, step up and compete.”
It should help the Tigers compete at the plate considering who will be representing them on the mound. Junior right hander Kevin Brady will get the ball first on Friday, while Dominic Leone will be Saturday’s starter. David Haselden, who has one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in Clemson history, will be Sunday’s starter. Clemson also brings back a ton of experience in the bullpen, including veteran pitchers Scott Firth, Kevin Pohle, Matt Campbell, and Jonathan Meyer.
“It’s nice to have a bunch of good guys on the mound to fall back on,” Shaffer said. “But, we are a proud group on offense and we do not want to have to be carried. We want to supply a lot of offense and give pitchers a lot of confidence out there to know they have a little cushion.
“Hopefully, we want to reverse that and make the pitchers feel as comfortable as possible. We are going to be really aggressive and we will be a lot better on offense than what some people are giving us credit for.”
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