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2001 Baseball Outlook

2001 Baseball Outlook

Oct. 18, 2000

By Brian Hennessy Clemson Sports InformationThe Maryland Game Program – October 14, 2000

Success breeds success. The 2001 Clemson baseball team hopes to build upon its College World Series appearance and 51 wins from a season ago. Jack Leggett, who is in his eighth season in Tigertown, returns 21 lettermen along with two transfers. He also inherits 11 newcomers that ranked as the 21st best incoming group in the country according to Collegiate Baseball. Leggett looks to add to his 339 wins in seven seasons at Clemson, an average of 48 per year.

The 2001 season has all the makings of being another outstanding season for the Tigers, who have participated in 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and won at least 40 games for 15 straight seasons. Only Miami (FL) and Florida State have longer active streaks of playing in the postseason tournament. Patrick Boyd will return for his senior season with a chance to break many Tiger career records. His return will help offset the loss of outfielder Justin Singleton and first baseman Mike Calitri, who signed free agent professional contracts over the summer.

Clemson returns five position starters, including shortstop Jeff Baker, third baseman Khalil Greene, second baseman Ryan Riley and left fielder Casey Stone along with Boyd. All five players have made significant contributions in recent years. The Tigers lost Ryan Mottl and Scott Berney, who combined for 19 wins, but return almost every other pitcher off the staff that recorded a 3.99 ERA in 2000.

Gone is assistant Coach Hank King, who accepted a position as a professional scout. In his one year, King helped recruit key 2000 performers in Ryan Riley from Edmonds Community College, where King had coached the previous year. Two more players from Edmonds, Chad Coder and Josh Cram, also look to play important roles in future seasons. Add lefthander Rob Ellis (Lafayette, CA) to the mix, and there are five Tigers from the West Coast.

Catcher Brian Ellis’ leadership and experience must be replaced behind the plate. Sophomore Steve Pyzik is the only returning catcher with significant playing time. Pyzik hit .265 in 34 at bats in 2000 and will compete for the starting job with junior college transfer Seth Miller. Junior Jon Smith appeared in eight games a season ago and will vie for a backup spot along with freshmen Brandon Montemayor and Gene Pierce.

Clemson returns three starting infielders and a fourth who saw significant playing time at first base. Greene, a junior, is a .361 career hitter and has an exceptional glove at the hot corner. Baker, a sophomore, started 67 games at shortstop in 2000 and led the team with 11 homers. He, along with Boyd, were members of the USA National Team that won the title at the World Championships this past summer.

Tiger Assistant Head Coach Tim Corbin, who will be named the ABCA/Baseball America Assistant Coach-of-the-Year in January, was also an assistant on that squad.

Riley, a senior, showed outstanding glove work at second base last season, committing just four errors for a .984 fielding percentage.

His triple total (7) per game also was tied for 11th best in the nation. Middle infielders and freshmen Ryan Klosterman, Benjamin Ryan and Russell Triplett will also vie for backup roles. Sophomore first baseman Michael Johnson returns with 30 starts at first base. Johnson looks to provide power in the middle of the Tiger lineup in 2000. Freshman Bryan LaHair will give Clemson added depth at the corner spots.

Boyd and Stone, both seniors, return in 2001 to lead Clemson’s outfield. Boyd’s batting average dropped to .293 in 2000 after posting a .390 mark in 1999. He still possesses the ability to turn a game around at the plate and in the field. The centerfielder needs 80 hits, 27 doubles, 41 RBIs and 126 total bases to break all-time Tiger records in each category.

Stone, the starter in left field, took over the leadoff spot in 2000 thanks to his feisty and scrappy nature on the field. He hit .357 with 65 runs scored and 25 steals a season ago after hitting .240 in 1999. Stone was especially hot when he moved into the leadoff spot in the lineup for the last 38 games, as he hit .396 during that span. Stone’s and Boyd’s speed and defensive ability give the Tigers an impressive one-two punch in the outfield.

The right-field spot is up for grabs due to the departure of Singleton. Junior college transfer Chad Coder, who has three years of eligibility remaining, will vie for the right-field starting role. Kyle Frank, who red-shirted in 2000 after making the postseason roster in 1999, along with sophomore Ryan Hub will also compete for the right-field spot. Freshman Zane Green will also push for playing time in the Tiger outfield.

Assistant coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s pitching staff returns 10 of the 13 pitchers who pitched in at least eight games last season.

Sophomore righthander Jarrod Schmidt heads up that list. The Freshman All-American had a 9-0 record and 3.61 ERA in 16 outings (15 starts) last season. Schmidt tore his ACL while playing in the Cape Cod League this summer. He will be out for the rest of fall practice but is expected to be ready for the season opener against Richmond on Feb. 16. Schmidt, who possesses perhaps the most power at the plate of any Tiger, will also see action in the field.

Other candidates for starting roles include junior righty Steve Reba, senior righty Kevin Lynn and sophomore righthander Ryan Childs. Reba and Lynn were dominant out of the bullpen in the 2000 postseason.

They were instrumental in the two victories over Mississippi State in the Super Regional. Reba has an 8-4 career record, while Lynn had a 3.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2000. Childs was a mid-week starter as a freshman and looks to build upon his success from a year ago. He was 4-2 in nine starts and seven relief appearances in 2000.

Clemson’s bullpen will feature third-team All-American and righthander Nick Glaser, who set a Tiger record with 15 saves along with a 2.45 ERA in 2000. Junior college transfer and righthander Josh Cram also has a chance to close games with his 90+ mph fastball.

Sophomore righthanders Matt Henrie, Paul Harrelson, B.J. LaMura and Chad Bendinelli will provide depth in the Tiger bullpen. Senior lefthander Mike Proto and junior lefty Thomas Boozer will give the Tigers versatility in that both have seen time in starting and relief roles. Rob Ellis, all lefthanders, along with righthanders Patrick Hogan, Jeff Hahn, and Steven Jackson will compete for innings as well. Jackson, a Summerville, SC native, was a 38th round pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the June Draft.

The Tigers’ schedule features 32 home games, including 17 of the last 22 games of the season at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers will face South Carolina a total of four times in 2001. Other highlights include a trip to Florida State and a home series with Georgia Tech.

The ACC Tournament will be held at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, SC for the second straight season.