2009 Clemson Baseball Review

June 29, 2009

Complete Final Notes

The 2009 season saw Clemson return to the national baseball scene, as the Tigers totaled 44 wins and advanced to a super regional. Clemson also earned its 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 23 years, its 34th overall (sixth-most in the nation), and eighth super-regional appearance (tied for fifth-most in the nation).

The Tigers finished third in the overall ACC standings and tied for the most ACC regular-season wins (19). Clemson also had a 13-win improvement from 2008 that tied for the third-best mark in school history.

Clemson did not lose more than two games in a row all year. Of its 22 losses, 19 were by four runs or less. During the season, the Tigers won twice in one day four times, their most since 1992.

The pitching had a 3.68 ERA, fifth-best in the nation. Clemson’s 2.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second-best mark in school history. It was a team effort, as 11 different Tigers pitched at least 22.0 innings and 10 different pitchers started at least one game on the mound.

Lefthander Casey Harman, who went from the bullpen to the team’s most reliable starter, finished with a 7-3 record, one save, and a 3.95 ERA in a team-high 86.2 innings pitched. In 22 appearances (13 starts), he had a 5.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the second-best figure in school history.

Lefty Chris Dwyer pitched 86.0 innings over an ACC-high 17 starts. He had a team-high 95 strikeouts, becoming the first Tiger freshman to lead the team in strikeouts since 1997. Righty Trey Delk, who missed several weeks with an injury, was 4-1 with a 3.44 ERA in 49.2 innings pitched over 11 starts.

Righthanders Graham Stoneburner and Justin Sarratt both started seven games. Stoneburner struck out 71 batters against 19 walks in 64.0 innings pitched and had a 7-4 record and 3.52 ERA in 20 appearances. Sarratt walked only nine batters in 42.1 innings pitched.

Lefty Matt Vaughn, also in the top 10 in career appearances (81), bounced back from preseason surgery and had a 4-1 record, four saves, and a 2.80 ERA in 35.1 innings pitched.

Three newcomers played major roles out of the bullpen. Righthander Tomas Cruz had a team-best .195 opponents’ batting average, a team-tying-high four saves, and a 3.33 ERA in 46.0 innings pitched. Freshman righthander Scott Weismann had a team-best 1.23 ERA in 36.2 innings pitched. Two-way freshman lefty Will Lamb had a 2.45 ERA in 22.0 innings pitched on the mound, while he hit .268 in 27 games (11 starts) in the field.

First-baseman Ben Paulsen led Clemson at the plate with a .367 batting average while starting all 66 games. He also led the squad in hits (95), doubles (18), RBIs (61), slugging percentage (.618), on-base percentage (.435), and tied from the team-lead in homers (13). The .367 batting average was the highest by a Tiger since 2004.

First-Team All-ACC outfielder Jeff Schaus, Clemson’s lone All-ACC honoree, played all 66 games for the Tigers and hit .320 with a .424 on-base percentage. Schaus tied for the team-lead in homers (13), was second in slugging percentage (.543), third in RBIs (50), and had two of the Tigers four walkoff hits in 2009.

Second-baseman Mike Freeman was a solid #2 hitter for the Tigers. He hit .328 with 16 doubles, five triples, four homers, and 11 steals. Freeman also had an outstanding .979 fielding percentage, as he committed just seven errors.

Outfielder Wilson Boyd, who missed 14 games due to injury, was second on the team in batting average (.341). He easily led the team in hitting with runners in scoring position (.481) and had two of the Tigers’ four walkoff hits. He was the only Tiger named to both the All-ACC Tournament and Clemson Regional All-Tournament teams.

Outfielder Chris Epps, who batted in the leadoff spot as the designated hitter during the latter stages of the season, had a .297 batting average and .415 on-base percentage. His late-season heroics were instrumental in Clemson’s run in the postseason.

Outfielder Kyle Parker finished second on the team in homers (12) and RBIs (52). Parker, who went through spring football drills, won the Bob Bradley Award as Clemson’s MVP of the South Carolina series.

John Nester, who cemented his role as the starting catcher after splitting time during the first half of 2009, had a solid year. He batted .304 with 11 doubles, five homers, and 33 RBIs in 57 games (46 starts).

Brad Miller became the first Tiger freshman since 2005 to start every game. The shortstop hit .273, but he had a .405 on-base percentage thanks to 53 walks, second-most in the ACC. Miller also led the team with 16 steals.

Jason Stolz and Matt Sanders split time at third base. In 55 games (42 starts), Stolz hit .315 with seven doubles and seven steals. Sanders batted .295 in 49 games (31 starts) with three homers.

The Tigers opened the year with a three-game sweep of Charlotte. In game-one, Clemson stole nine bases en route to an 8-3 victory. After a 4-0 win in game-two, the Tigers completed the sweep with a 6-5 win on Boyd’s walkoff single in the 10th inning.

After an 8-2 win over Wofford, South Carolina came to town and edged the Tigers 3-1. After a 4-2 loss to Furman, in which the Tigers lost a no-hitter with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning, Clemson responded with a 17-2 win over UNC Asheville.

Clemson traveled to Chapel Hill for the first time since 2004 to open ACC play. In game-one, the Tigers defeated the #2 Tar Heels 6-5 when Sanders hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th inning. North Carolina responded with close wins in the final two games.

The Tigers returned home for a game with Michigan State, the Spartans first visit to Clemson since 1958. The Tigers won 11-2, as 11 different players recorded a hit and 10 scored a run. The following night, Clemson took on the Spartans at Fluor Field in Greenville. Freeman went 4-for-4 and led the Tigers to a 6-1 win.

The Tigers returned to ACC action, as Wake Forest traveled to Tigertown. The Tigers swept a doubleheader by scores of 4-1 and 6-1 to open the series behind Parker, who went 6-for-9 with two homers and six RBIs in the two games. Clemson completed the sweep behind 7.0 strong innings pitched from Dwyer in a 7-3 win.

After an 8-0 win over Presbyterian, the Tigers faced USC Upstate. Five pitchers combined to throw Clemson’s first no-hitter since 1984 in its 14-0 win. It was the 14th no-hitter in school history and only the second involving multiple pitchers.

Clemson then traveled to Tallahassee to take on the #24 Seminoles. After losing game-one 5-2, Clemson won game-two 8-7 in 11 innings thanks in part to Parker’s two-run homer in the 11th. The following day, Florida State won the series with a 7-4 walkoff win.

After Clemson won both games of a midweek doubleheader against Elon by scores of 5-3 and 8-7, the Tigers traveled to Boston College. After dropping game-one 13-1, the Tigers came back to win the series with a doubleheader sweep the following day by scores of 7-6 and 5-3. In the two games, Paulsen went 5-for-7 with a triple, homer, and five RBIs.

Clemson then took on top-ranked Georgia in the annual midweek, home-and-home series. In Athens, the Bulldogs held on to defeat the Tigers 6-5. The following night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, the Bulldogs scored three runs in the ninth inning to win 4-2, spoiling a masterful performance by Sarratt. In 8.0 innings, he allowed just three hits, one run, and one walk with 12 strikeouts while retiring 17 straight batters at one point. Sarratt earned ACC Pitcher-of-the-Week honors.

Duke came to town to the following weekend, as the Tigers won their second straight ACC series. After splitting the first two games, Clemson won game-three 10-1 and gave Jack Leggett his 700th win as the Tigers’ head coach.

Clemson then traveled to Columbia for its first-ever game at Carolina Stadium. The Gamecocks won 7-6 on a walkoff single after Clemson had battled back from an early deficit. The following night in Tigertown, Clemson topped the Gamecocks when Epps’ pinch-hit, run-scoring single in the fifth inning gave Clemson a lead it would not relinquish in a 7-5 win.

Miami (FL), ranked #5 in the nation, came to town the following weekend. After losing game-one 12-8, Dwyer pitched a complete-game two-hitter and allowed just one runner past second base to lead Clemson to a 9-1 win in game-two, as he earned ACC Pitcher-of-the-Week honors. The Tigers won game-three 9-6 to take its third straight ACC series.

Clemson made its annual trek to Cullowhee, NC and defeated Western Carolina 11-1, as Schaus, Paulsen, and Parker all totaled three hits apiece. The following night at Clemson, Parker went 4-for-5 with a homer, three runs, and four RBIs to lead the Tigers to a 13-2 win over the Catamounts. In his last at-bat, Parker’s streak of eight hits in a row came to an end.

The Tigers then traveled to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. After dropping the first two games, Harman pitched 6.0 scoreless innings and the Tigers scored six two-out runs to defeat the Hokies 8-1.

The #19 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers traveled to Clemson during the midweek and the Tigers won in dramatic fashion, as Schaus hit a two-out, walkoff grand slam to propel Clemson to a 5-3 win. The following night in Columbia, Clemson defeated South Carolina 12-2, as Nester went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and Parker went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to help the Tigers to a split of the four-game series.

Georgia Tech came to town the following weekend for a top-20 battle. In game-one, the #4 Yellow Jackets scored all five runs in the third inning and held on for a 5-4 win. In game-two, Schaus went 4-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs to lead the Tigers to an 8-5 win. Clemson took the series with a 6-3 win in game-three.

Following five days off for final exams, Maryland came to town. In an 11-2 game-one win, the Tigers totaled 16 hits, including eight extra-base hits. The following day, the teams split a doubleheader, but Clemson still won its second consecutive ACC series.

UNC Wilmington traveled to Clemson the next weekend for a non-conference series. Clemson won game-one 13-2 and followed with an 11-3 win the next day. The Seahawks won the series-finale 4-3.

In a rare Monday game, Clemson took on Furman at Fluor Field. Boyd and Paulsen each had four hits to lead the Tigers to an 8-6 victory. College of Charleston then made its annual appearance at Clemson and the Tigers improved to 21-0 all-time against the Cougars with a 5-2 win.

Clemson traveled to N.C. State for its final ACC series. In game-one, the Tigers totaled 15 hits and nine walks en route to a 13-8 win. In game-two, Clemson scored five runs apiece in the first and third innings and won 11-5. Clemson completed the sweep with a 5-4 win behind four first-inning runs. With the victory, the Tigers finished in second place in the ACC Atlantic Division standings and earned the #3 seed for the ACC Tournament at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

In game-one, Clemson dropped a tough 6-5 decision to eventual tournament champion Virginia. Game-two matched Clemson against hometown Duke. The Blue Devils broke open a close game with a six-run sixth inning to defeat Clemson 10-4.

Game-three against #4 North Carolina was a classic back-and-forth, 11-inning battle that saw the Tigers defeat the Tar Heels when Boyd hit a walkoff single with two outs in the ninth inning to give Clemson a 4-3 win. Boyd had two hits and was named to the All-ACC Tournament team, joining Harman, who pitched 7.1 strong innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts against the Tar Heels, on the squad.

Clemson was one of 16 regional host sites, as the Tigers hosted a regional for the first time since 2006. The Tigers took on Tennessee Tech in their first game of the regional.

After a slow start and trailing 4-1 in the fifth inning, Clemson cut into the lead on Freeman’s RBI groundout and Schaus’ homer. The Tigers, who put their leadoff batter on base in each of the last seven innings, missed opportunities to tie the score in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Johnson, inserted as a pinch-hitter, led off with a single and Epps followed with a bunt single to set up Schaus for his second walkoff hit of 2009 with a double over first base to score both runners and give Clemson a dramatic 5-4 victory.

The Tigers fell 3-2 in a tough game to Oklahoma State in their second game after the Cowboys scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.

But Clemson recorded back-to-back double-digit wins over Tennessee Tech and Oklahoma State to set up a winner-take-all game with the Cowboys. In the two wins, Weismann and Dwyer each pitched at least 8.0 innings, with Dwyer striking out 13, while the Tiger offense totaled 30 hits.

In the Tigers’ fifth game of the regional, Clemson rallied from a 5-1 deficit to score five combined runs in the seventh and eighth innings to defeat Oklahoma State 6-5. Epps started the comeback with a two-run homer in the seventh. Parker then gave Clemson the lead for good with a two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning. Vaughn, who pitched 3.2 solid innings in his last appearance at home, struck out the last Cowboy with two runners on to earn the win. All six Tiger runs and all 10 hits came with two outs.

Epps was named Clemson Regional MVP after going 10-for-19 (.526) with two homers, six RBIs, and seven runs in five games. Joining Epps on the all-tournament team were Boyd, Dwyer, Freeman, and Paulsen.

With the win, the Tigers advanced to the Tempe Super Regional to face #2 Arizona State. They were the Tigers’ first-ever games in the state of Arizona and the first time Clemson had ever played a Pac-10 team on its home field.

In the opener, Clemson fell 7-4 behind 8.0 effective innings pitched from Mike Leake, the national leader in wins. Epps led Clemson with two hits and three RBIs. The following day, the Sun Devils advanced to the College World Series with an 8-2 win behind a complete game from Josh Spence, the first and only one against the Tigers in 2009.

Clemson finished the season with a 44-22 record and was ranked #14 by Sports Weekly, #15 by Collegiate Baseball, and #16 by Baseball America in the final polls.

Clemson fans continued to support the Tigers, as 170,156 fans attended the 36 home dates. The 4,726 fans per date was the third-highest average in school history.

After the season, nine Tigers were chosen in the Major League draft, tied for fourth-most in the nation and tied for third-most in school history. Paulsen was a third-round pick of the Rockies, Dwyer was a fourth-round selection of the Royals, and Hinson was a 10th-round pick of the Padres. Stoneburner, Delk, Freeman, Sanders, Clinton McKinney, and Johnson were also selected later in the draft.