July 8, 2008
Complete Season Review/Final Notes
The 2008 season was filled with its high moments, however, several streaks came to an end. The Tigers, who finished with a record of 31-27-1, did not make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1986 and ended the nation’s third-longest streak of reaching the NCAA Tourney at 21. Nevertheless, Clemson did finish with a non-losing season for the 51st straight year.
The Tigers missed out on the NCAA Tournament due to their 11-18-1 record in ACC regular-season games. It was Clemson’s first losing conference record since 1957. However, 11 of the 18 losses were by two runs or less, as Clemson was very competitive in most league games.
Clemson continued its tradition of playing a rigorous schedule, as 27 of the Tigers’ 59 games were against teams that competed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, including 12 games against teams that advanced to the College World Series. The Tigers, whose 31 home games were their fewest since 1993, also played the second-toughest schedule in the country according to WarrenNolan.com and had an RPI of #26 entering NCAA Tourney play. Clemson was the only school in the top 42 of the RPI that did not make the NCAA Tourney.
D.J. Mitchell, a First-Team All-ACC selection, led the pitching staff with 14 starts and six wins. In 20 appearances, he struck out 106 batters in 98.2 innings pitched and finished with a 3.47 ERA. His strikeout total was the highest by a Tiger since 1996 (Kris Benson).
Graham Stoneburner, the only other Tiger pitchers with at least 10 starts, helped anchor the pitching staff during the season. Hinson had a 4.74 ERA in 19 appearances with three wins and one save over 68.1 innings pitched. Stoneburner, who missed the entire 2007 season with an injury, finished the year with six wins in 16 appearances over 71.1 innings pitched.
A young trio of Tiger lefties were key contributors out of the bullpen during the season. Freshman Casey Harman finished with a 3.89 ERA in 44.0 innings over 27 appearances and had a 4.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the sixth-best figure in school history. Freshman Craig Gullickson had four wins in his 19 appearances with a 4.64 ERA over 42.2 innings pitched. Matt Zoltak also had a 4-0 record in 20 appearances.
Matt Vaughn, who totaled 11 saves in a team-high 30 appearances, registered a team-best 3.15 ERA in 40.0 innings pitched and allowed an opponent’s batting average of .256, also best on the squad. His 11 saves were third-most in a season in Clemson history and most since 2000.
Trey Delk came on strong at the end of the year and made 14 appearances (five starts), ending with a 2-1 record and 4.01 ERA. Justin Sarratt made 27 appearances and only allowed six walks in 45.2 innings pitched. His 1.18 walks per nine innings pitched mark was second-best in Tiger history.
Clemson had a talented but young lineup in 2008, as the top-four hitters were all either freshmen or sophomores, and three of the four were in their first year in the program. Veterans Stan Widmann, Doug Hogan, and Wilson Boyd combined with the youngsters to comprise the majority of the Tigers’ regular lineup throughout the season.
Second-baseman Mike Freeman, a sophomore transfer from Georgia, led Clemson at the plate with a .332 batting average and .401 on-base percentage, as he was the leadoff batter during the second half of the season.
Freshman left-fielder Jeff Schaus, who played all 59 games, batted .315 and led the team with a .415 on-base percentage. He was even better against ACC competition, as he hit .360 with a .462 on-base percentage in ACC regular-season games, the best marks by an ACC freshman in 2008.
First-baseman Ben Paulsen, in his first year as an everyday starter, batted .310, finished second on the team in homers (13), and led the squad in doubles (18).
Freshman utility player Kyle Parker, also a top quarterback recruit, finished the year as the starting right-fielder and hit .303 with a team-leading 14 homers. Parker was a First-Team All-ACC selection even though he should have been a senior in high school in the spring of 2008. He also earned freshman All-America honors by Collegiate Baseball. Parker batted .336 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in ACC regular-season games. The latter two figures were both second-best in the ACC.
Boyd, who started all 59 games, batted .300 and tied for the team-lead with 70 hits. Hogan joined Boyd as the only two Tigers to start all 59 games, as the catcher and NSCA Strength All-American led the team in RBIs (51) along with 11 home runs and 10 stolen bases. Widmann, who returned from a serious neck injury that forced him to miss almost the entire 2007 season, played 54 games, had a team-high 14 stolen bases, and was solid in the field at shortstop.
Other key contributors included John Hinson, who split time at third base. Sanders, who finished the season strong by hitting .404 in his last 14 games, ended with a .297 batting average in 46 games, while John Hinson batted .264 in 39 games.
Backup catcher John Nester hit three homers in 30 games, while Chris Epps, who split time in right field, hit .218 in 40 games. However, the freshman had a .406 on-base percentage, second-best on the team, thanks to 30 walks in just 101 at-bats. Alex Lee, who also split time in the outfield, batted .250 in 48 games.
The Tigers were marred by a major injury in 2008. Addison Johnson, who was slated to be the starting centerfielder and leadoff batter, missed the entire year after suffering a hamstring injury just prior to the start of the season. Then in late February, he suffered a hand injury that kept him out of action the rest of the year.
The Tigers had three players selected in the 2008 draft. Mitchell was drafted in the 10th round by the New York Yankees, Hogan was selected in the 18th round by the Texas Rangers, and Ryan Hinson was chosen in the 31st round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The #13 Tigers opened the season with a series sweep of Mercer. In game-one, Widmann made his return in a Tiger uniform and had two hits to help lead Clemson to a 12-5 victory. After a 6-5 win in game-two, the Tigers completed the sweep with a 10-3 win, highlighted by Boyd’s solo homer and three-run homer in the third inning. It was the fourth time in history that a Tiger hit two home runs in an inning. Epps was a key factor in the sweep, as he had a hit in each of his first five collegiate at-bats.
After a 12-3 win over High Point in which Clemson hit four home runs, the Tigers hit three more homers and scored two runs in the eighth inning to win at College of Charleston 7-6 on February 27. Third-ranked South Carolina was up next and swept the home-and-home series from the Tigers by scores of 10-1 and 5-1, as the Gamecocks turned four Clemson errors into seven unearned runs.
After rallying from a five-run deficit to defeat Wofford 9-7, Clemson traveled to Wake Forest to open ACC play. Wake Forest outslugged Clemson 13-11 in game-one, a contest in which every Tiger starter scored at least one run, and also took game-two by a score of 5-3. Hogan went hitless in game-two, ending his 24-game hitting streak (tied for fifth-longest in Clemson history) that started in 2007.
In game-three, Parker put on a show at the plate, going 5-for-5 with three homers, one double, seven RBIs, five runs scored, and 15 total bases in Clemson’s 12-11 comeback win. His last long ball was a three-run shot that tied the score in the ninth inning and helped Clemson overcome a seven-run deficit. He became the 12th Tiger in history to hit three home runs in one game.
Clemson returned home for a midweek series against North Carolina-Greensboro. In game-one, Clemson took an 11-0 lead after a grand slam by Freeman in the sixth inning and held on for an 11-10 win. It marked the first time since 1950 Clemson allowed double-digit runs in back-to-back games and still won both contests. In game-two, the Tigers scored four runs in the ninth inning for a 6-5 comeback victory when Widmann hit a two-out, two-run single to tie the score. Lee later scored the winning run on the play after an errant throw.
The Tigers returned to ACC action, as Boston College traveled to Clemson for the second consecutive year. After the Eagles won the first two games in the series, the Tigers responded with a 16-2 win in game-three. Twelve different Tigers had at least one hit, including five by Boyd, and 11 scored at least one run. However, the two losses dropped Clemson out of all three top-25 polls, ending its 52-week streak (dating back to 2005) being ranked by at least one poll.
Clemson responded with four wins in five games the next week. Hogan led the Tigers to midweek wins against Coastal Carolina and Furman. In a 9-6 win over the Chanticleers, Hogan hit a two-run homer in the first inning and three-run long ball in the second inning. Hogan continued to swing a hot bat in the Tigers’ 14-2 win over Furman, as he hit two more homers and drove in six runs. He belted a grand slam in the fourth inning and two-run homer in the fifth inning, making it his second straight game with two home runs. He earned national player-of-the-week honors for his efforts.
N.C. State came to town next, as the Tigers took two games from the Wolfpack. After dropping game-one 5-4, the Tigers responded with a 3-2 comeback win in game-two to even the series. In the decisive third game, Stoneburner pitched a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 Clemson win. Stoneburner only allowed two singles and just one Wolfpack player reached second base in the game. It was the first individual shutout by a Tiger since 2005.
Clemson then won both games of a midweek series against Elon by one run thanks in part to not committing an error. After winning game-one 5-4, the Tigers won game-two 2-1, as three Clemson pitchers combined to retire the last 18 batters of the game to complete the sweep.
Clemson then traveled to Maryland and captured its second straight ACC series. In game-one, Mitchell allowed just five hits and no earned runs in 8.0 innings pitched to lead Clemson to a 2-1 win. But the Tigers had to retire three straight Terrapins with runners on second and third to record the narrow victory. The Tigers dropped a 5-3 decision in game-two, as their 33-inning streak of not allowing an earned run in an ACC game came to an end. Clemson then took game-three by a score of 6-2, as Widmann, making his first career appearance off the bench, hit a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to plate the go-ahead run. The Tigers added three insurance runs in the ninth inning.
Clemson then took on Georgia in the annual midweek, home-and-home series. In Athens, Georgia cruised to an 11-3 win, as Clemson totaled just four hits in the contest. The following night in Tigertown, Georgia scored two runs with two outs in the seventh inning to defeat the Tigers 6-4.
The Tigers traveled to Coral Gables to take on #2 Miami (FL) over the weekend. After dropping game-one 6-4 on a walkoff homer by Yonder Alonso, Clemson relinquished a 5-2 lead in game-two, as the Hurricanes scored the final 13 runs to win 15-5. Miami completed the sweep with a 7-6 victory and handed Clemson its first ACC sweep since 2006.
The Tigers’ struggles continued, as #14 South Carolina defeated Clemson 7-1 on April 9. The lone Tiger run came on Hogan’s solo homer in the first inning.
Clemson continued against top competition, as it welcomed #4 North Carolina to town. The Tar Heels swept all three games from the Tigers. The Tigers were just 4-for-28 with runners in scoring position in the series. After an 8-2 win in game-one, Kyle Seager hit two homers in game-two to lead North Carolina to a 4-3 victory. The Tar Heels completed the sweep with an 8-4 win in game-three.
Western Carolina came to town next and defeated Clemson 6-2 by scoring five runs in the last three innings. Sanders provided the Tigers’ lone highlight by hitting his first career home run. The next night, #10 South Carolina came to town and completed the four-game season sweep with a 6-0 win. Boyd won the Bob Bradley Award as Clemson’s MVP in the series for the second consecutive season. The loss extended Clemson’s losing streak to 11 games, the longest in school history.
Clemson then hit the road and traveled to Durham to take on Duke. Clemson pounded out 14 hits and snapped its 11-game losing streak with a 7-4 victory in game-one, then Duke followed with a 10-1 win in game-two. The series remained tied, as the two teams played to a 6-6 draw in 10 innings in game-three.
With Clemson trailing by four runs and down to its last out in the ninth inning, Hogan hit a run-scoring single and Paulsen followed with a three-run homer to send the game to extra innings. After a scoreless 10th inning, Parker hit a two-run homer with no outs in the 11th inning to give the Tigers an 8-6 lead before inclement weather halted play. After over an hour of rain, the game was called due to unplayable field conditions and the final score reverted back to the last complete inning of play. The tie was Clemson’s first since 1987 and first in an ACC game since a 1969 tie against South Carolina.
Clemson made the annual trek to Cullowhee, NC and defeated Western Carolina 6-0 behind Delk’s 7.0 innings of two-hit ball in his first career start. The next night, the Tigers took on Presbyterian at Fluor Field in Greenville, SC. Clemson scored 11 runs in the first three innings and totaled 15 hits in the game en route to a 12-7 victory. It was Clemson’s first meeting with the Blue Hose since 1950.
Virginia Tech then made the trip to Clemson, and the Tigers swept all three games from the Hokies. In game-one, Boyd, Parker, and Paulsen all hit homers, as Clemson won 13-5. The next day, Parker hit a three-run homer, his second long ball of the game, in the eighth inning and Clemson held on for an 8-7 win. The Tigers completed the sweep behind Mitchell’s 7.1 innings pitched of three-hit ball in a 10-2 victory.
After a week off for final exams, #3 Florida State came to town. In game-one, Hogan hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings. Florida State responded with four runs in the 10th inning. Parker pulled Clemson within one with a three-run homer, but the Seminoles held on for a 9-8 win. In game-two, four different Seminoles hit homers in Florida State’s 13-4 victory. Florida State completed the sweep with a 4-2 win.
Clemson returned to Flour Field and defeated Furman by scoring seven of its first eight runs with two outs. Paulsen went 4-for-5 on the way to an 11-5 Tiger win.
The Tigers then traveled to Atlanta to take on #25 Georgia Tech. In game-one, Mitchell pitched a complete game, but the Yellow Jackets outlasted Clemson 5-1. Georgia Tech won game-two 7-1, as John Hinson led the Tigers by going 3-for-4 at the plate. Clemson blasted the Yellow Jackets 16-6 in the series-finale behind 20 hits, as eight different Tigers had at least two hits. Schaus’ went 5-for-6, while every Tiger starter had a hit and scored a run by the end of the sixth inning.
The Tigers returned to the Palmetto State for their final home game of the season against College of Charleston. Schaus hit his first career homer, a two-run shot in the first inning, and Widmann blasted a three-run homer in the second inning. Later in the game, Widmann hit his second homer, a two-run shot in the seventh inning, and finished with five RBIs. With the 12-6 win, Clemson ran its all-time record against the Cougars to 20-0 and finished the season with an 18-13 home record.
Clemson concluded regular-season play with a non-conference series at Central Florida from May 15-17. In game-one, Mitchell struck out nine in 7.0 innings pitched, and Widmann continued his hot streak with a game-high three hits and three RBIs to lead Clemson to a 9-1 win. In game-two, Parker and Schaus, both freshmen from the state of Florida, each hit homers to lead Clemson to a 7-3 win. The Tigers completed the sweep with an 8-5 win behind a three-run eighth inning.
Clemson entered the ACC Tournament at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (FL) as the #8 seed and faced the Hurricanes in the opening game. Mitchell stuck out 11 Hurricanes in only 6.0 innings pitched, but ACC Rookie-of-the-Year Chris Hernandez held the Tigers scoreless in 8.0 innings pitched in a 7-1 Miami win. In Clemson’s second game, N.C. State pounded out 17 hits en route to a 10-0 win in seven innings. The win snapped the Wolfpack’s nine-game losing streak to the Tigers in ACC Tournament play.
Clemson ended the tournament on a high note, as the Tigers hit three homers on their way to a 10-4 victory over Georgia Tech. Schaus hit a two-run homer in the second inning, Boyd hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to tie the score, and Paulsen hit his first career grand slam in the seventh inning to give Clemson the lead. The Tigers added three insurance runs in the ninth inning. With the victory, Clemson ended its season with a win for the first time since the 1984 season. It also gave Clemson six wins in its last eight games of 2008.
Clemson fans continued support of the Tigers, as 140,040 fans attended the 30 home dates at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in 2008. The 4,668 fans per game was the third-highest average in Tiger history.
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