Jan. 18, 2000
CLEMSON, S.C. – When a team comes so close to reaching its goals and falls just short, the following year’s team usually comes back with a tenacious desire to achieve those unachieved goals. The 2000 Clemson baseball team is no different.
Clemson came within three outs of reaching its goal in ’99, a trip to the College World Series. Seventeen of the 25 players that experienced that bitter end return in 2000. Despite the disappointing final inning of ’99, Clemson won at least 40 games for the 14th straight season and played in the NCAA Tournament for the 13th year in a row.
This year’s team, which is ranked 11th in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll, returns its nucleus of position players, but will have to count on some new faces on the mound. Six starters in the field, including All-America outfielder Patrick Boyd, and some new faces, like freshman shortstop Jeff Baker, spotlight the position players. Baker and the other newcomers have been so impressive that Baseball America tabbed (Recruiting Coordinator) Tim Corbin’s class #1 in the nation. With the 2000 recruiting class, Clemson, whose 486 wins in the 1990s was fourth-best in the country, looks to continue its winning ways into the new decade.
“I’m really excited about this team,” states Head Coach Jack Leggett, who has averaged 48 wins in six seasons at Clemson. “We have a lot of depth at every position. We brought in some talented players in the offseason. We’ve got a chance to be a solid offensive and defensive team, and if we can just put our pitching together, we should have a successful season.”
The season almost did not start for #7, as Leggett broke his neck in a skiing accident while on vacation in Colorado in December. He will have to wear a neck brace for the first few weeks of the season. However, Leggett did not miss the preseason practices and expects to make a full recovery by mid-season. Despite the setback, Leggett still has his mind focused ahead towards the type of baseball Clemson fans have come to expect in his six years as the Tigers’ skipper.
“Expect a very aggressive offensive team,” says Leggett. “We have a good combination of speed and players who can hit for power. We also have some intra-team competition and leadership. The team has a feeling deep down inside that it wants to go to Omaha and play for the National Championship.”
The Tigers lost valuable performers and leaders in second baseman Kurt Bultmann, first baseman Jason Harris, and catcher Derek Borgert, but several veterans return who have been through the battles of ACC and NCAA Tournament competition. “We have a lot of experienced players and a lot of newcomers, so we will look to players like Boyd, Mike Calitri, Brian Ellis, Brian Holstad, Ryan Mottl, Justin Singleton, and Henr’ Stanley to step up and be leaders for us. The players voted all seven of these players to be captains this season.”
Catchers Ellis (Sr. – Columbia, SC) is the only returning catcher who has played an inning for the Tigers, but several young newcomers have caught the attention of Leggett. “Brian has been a starter for the last two years. As a sophomore he had an excellent walk-to-strikeout ratio in the leadoff spot, but was less consistent in ’99. We have confidence that he will get back to that level. Steve Pyzik (Fr. – Mount Airy, MD) is a young catcher who will be an outstanding player in time. Jon Smith (So. – Kinston, NC) will get better behind the plate as well after red-shirting in his first season at Clemson a year ago. We also will look at freshman Jarrod Schmidt at catcher. He has outstanding power and a good arm.”
Walk-on Johnny Pack (Fr. – Landrum, SC) will give Clemson much needed help in the bullpen.
Infielders Clemson must replace Bultmann (2B) and Harris (1B), who were mainstays for four and two years, respectively, in the Tiger infield. “We will have competition at first base this season,” states Leggett. “Calitri (Jr. – Canton, MA), Michael Johnson (Fr. – Georgetown, SC), and Schmidt (Fr. – Marietta, GA) all have a chance to step up and start at the position. All of these players have shown power and some good defensive skills.”
Calitri can play either of the corner infield positions. He came through with some clutch pinch-hits in ’99 and is a career .311 hitter in 45 at bats. Johnson red-shirted a season ago, but has tremendous power from the left side and will compete for the starting first-base and designated hitter spots.
Schmidt, a heralded recruit, can play first base, outfield, catcher, and will be given a chance to pitch in late innings. Baseball America listed Schmidt as the #22 high school prospect in the nation and as one of the best raw power hitters coming out of high school. Schmidt, another in the long line of Tigers who hails from Marietta, GA, was also the MVP of the Connie Mack League World Series this past summer and was drafted in the 23rd round by the Florida Marlins.
Baker (Fr. – Woodbridge, VA), a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Indians in the ’99 draft, is another young player who will be counted on in 2000. While playing for the USA Junior National Team this past summer, he hit .481 and had the game-winning hit in the World Series Championship game.
Baker will compete with Bradley LeCroy (Sr. – Walhalla, SC) and Russell Triplett (Fr. – West Columbia, SC) for the middle infield spots. LeCroy, who hit .286 with 44 RBIs and 13 stolen bases as a junior, was the starting shortstop in ’99, but might move to second base with the emergence of Baker. Ryan Riley (Jr. – Seattle, WA) is a mid-season transfer from Edmonds Community College. Riley will compete for the starting second base spot.
Holstad (Sr. – Cameron, SC) and Singleton (Jr. – Sparks, MD), both veterans of the Tiger program, will be given a look in the infield, which is where both players began their Tiger careers. Holstad, a reliable fifth-year senior who has 29 career stolen bases and 129 career starts, played second base as a freshman, and has played third base and the outfield since. Singleton can play either position in the left side of the infield. He came alive late in ’99, including a memorable towering home run (estimated at 475 feet) in the ninth inning to tie N.C. State in the ACC Tournament in a game Clemson went on to win.
Khalil Greene (So. – Key West, FL) looks to continue his torrid postseason hitting of ’99 as the starting third baseman. Greene, a third-team Freshman All-American in ’99, broke the Clemson freshman record for hits (98) and batted .519 in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson and Calitri will provide depth behind Greene at the hot corner.
Outfielders Boyd (Jr. – Palm Harbor, FL), who hit .390 with 17 homers, 70 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases in ’99, heads up a talented group of outfielders. The preseason first-team All-American is the team’s top returner in batting average, home runs, doubles, RBIs, and on-base percentage. Boyd managed the .390 batting average despite being hampered by a shoulder injury during most of ’99. Baseball America has named Boyd the #2 college prospect for the 2000 Major League Draft. He possesses all the tools necessary to become one of the greatest Tigers in history with a tremendous junior season. His fielding ability often goes unnoticed, but he has tracked down many-a-fly-ball that looked certain to drop. Boyd can be written in the lineup in centerfield in ink for the 2000 season.
Stanley (Sr. – Columbia, SC) had a tremendous fall and will be counted on to provide power and speed with his 41 career stolen bases in 45 attempts. Stanley scored a team-best 85 runs and tied the Tiger single-season record with 64 walks in ’99 while batting in the leadoff spot. Stanley will battle for the starting left-field spot.
Casey Stone (Jr. – Abbeville, SC) and Singleton have both made significant improvements in the offseason. Stone, who had a phenomenal 1999 NCAA Tournament, gives Clemson a scrappy and hard-nosed presence on the basepaths and in left field. Singleton, along with Holstad, has the athletic ability and defensive versatility to play in the outfield. Kyle Frank (So. – Wolfeboro, NH) along with Ryan Hub (Fr. – Sumter, SC), Alan Lindsey (Fr. – Mechanicsville, VA), and Grant Redding (Fr. – Homewood, AL) will provide depth in the Tiger outfield.
Frank has outstanding speed and a good arm. He will compete for a starting spot in left or right field. Lindsey was a 44th-round selection by the Red Sox in the 1999 Major League Draft, while Hub showed flashes in preseason practice of what’s to come with speed and aggressiveness. Redding red-shirted in ’99 and will provide depth in the outfield.
Pitchers Pitching coach Kevin O’Sullivan will have to replace Mike Paradis (first-round pick), Doug Roper (26th-round pick), and closer Chris Heck (fifth-round pick), the top three pitchers in 1999 in terms of ERA.
Mottl (Sr. – Florissant, MO), a righthander, returns for his senior season after a disappointing junior campaign. He will be counted on to provide leadership with the young Tiger pitching staff. Mottl will look to repeat his freshman and sophomore seasons that saw him win 10 and nine games, respectively. He has experience with Team USA and has pitched 44.0 postseason innings in his three-year career. Mottl also has 23 career wins while the rest of the Tiger staff has a combined 26 wins in Tigertown.
Other candidates for starting roles include righthander Scott Berney (Sr. – Hamden, CT), a transfer from Connecticut, lefthander Thomas Boozer (So. – Columbia, SC), and righthander Steve Reba (So. – Fort Wayne, IN). Berney had a 14-9 record with a 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 179.2 innings pitched during three seasons at Connecticut. As freshmen, Boozer and Reba combined for an 11-7 record and 14 starts. Boozer tied for the team lead with six wins and Reba has added speed and control this year to his already outstanding breaking pitch.
Lefthander Mike Proto (Jr. – Peabody, MA) came up big in a relief role to earn the victory in the clinching win in the Fayetteville Regional. For the second year in a row, he has the team’s best returning ERA. Proto provides a versatility in both starting and relief roles. Junior college transfer and righthander Kevin Lynn (Jr. – North Augusta, SC) will also vie for a starting spot in the rotation. Lynn had a 21-4 record in two seasons at Spartanburg Methodist.
Veteran righthander Matt Additon (Sr. – Turner, ME) returns with a career record of 12-5 in 163.1 innings pitched over three seasons. With 16 appearances in 2000, Additon will set the all-time Tiger record for career appearances. Additon’s breaking pitch has baffled opposing hitters for three seasons. He has experience in both starting and relief roles.
Other veterans who will bolster the Tiger bullpen include lefthanders Brandt Cook (So. – Mauldin, SC), Justin Lombardi (Jr. – Taunton, MA), and Mike Rhue (So. – Gainesville, FL), along with righthander Matt Henrie (So. – Jupiter, FL). Cook stepped up late in the ’99 season and gave the Tigers starting and relief innings, including a pivotal win in relief against #10 North Carolina late in the regular season. Lombardi and Rhue are two lefthanders who must become more consistent and look to provide depth in the bullpen. Henrie was used sparingly in ’99, but work over the summer on his mechanics and change-up should net positive results for Clemson in 2000.
Righthander Nick Glaser (Jr. – Wishkah, WA), a transfer from Edmonds Community College in Washington, is a candidate for the closer role. His coach at Edmonds, Hank King, is the new Tiger assistant coach, replacing Mike Hampton, and his teammate at Edmonds was Riley, a fellow Tiger newcomer and infielder.
Rookie righthanders Ryan Childs (Fr. – Gaithersburg, MD), a 17th-round selection by the White Sox, Chad Bendinelli (Fr. – Marietta, GA), J.D. Davis (Fr. – Huntingtown, MD), James Dawson (Fr. – Portland, ME), Paul Harrelson (Fr. – Spartanburg, SC), Patrick Hogan (Fr. – Columbia, SC), and B.J. LaMura (Fr. – Ronkonkoma, NY), and sophomore transfer Rob Sine (So. – Ballwin, MO) from Richmond, along with lefthanders Artie Catoe (Fr. – West Columbia, SC), who is slated to red-shirt, and transfer Anthony Urrico (So. – Staten Island, NY), a lefthander from Long Island University, also have a chance to contribute in 2000.
Davis and Urrico have great movement on their pitches, and could see valuable innings in 2000. Bendinelli was a high school teammate and next door neighbor of Schmidt in Marietta, GA. Bendinelli comes from a very successful Lassiter High program that has produced countless baseball players over the years. LaMura was rated as the #100 high school prospect in the nation last year by Baseball America.
Clemson’s schedule features 37 home games, including 23 and 11-game homestands from February to April. The Tigers open the season in January in the ACC Disney Blast against Rice, defending National Champion Miami (FL) and Central Florida, teams that are all ranked in Baseball America’s preseason top-25 poll. North Carolina and Wake Forest, who are also ranked in the preseason, are the other two ACC teams in the six-team tournament. UNLV and The Citadel will visit Tiger Field for three-game series in March. Clemson also has non-conference home series with Old Dominion, James Madison, and Ohio, and mid-week games with Coastal Carolina, William & Mary, and East Carolina before the ACC season. During the conference season, Clemson will face Georgia, UNC Charlotte, Western Carolina, Furman, South Carolina, Elon, and Liberty. The 2000 ACC Tournament will be held in the Charlotte area for the first time.
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