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2010 Clemson Baseball Outlook

Feb. 2, 2010

Overview The Clemson baseball program enters a new decade with the never-changing goal, returning to the College World Series and competing for the national title. A year after advancing to the super-regional round for the eighth time in the 11th year of the format, the Tigers return eight position starters and a wealth of young arms.

“I’m extremely excited about the prospects for the 2010 season,” said Head Coach Jack Leggett, who is in his 17th year at the helm of the Tiger program. “We have 20 returning lettermen and many freshmen who will make a contribution to our success in 2010.”

Leggett, who has taken the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament 15 of his first 16 seasons, has amassed 724 wins, seventh-most in the nation over that span. That is more wins than the likes of Texas, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Arizona State, South Carolina, and Stanford.

“Offensively, we return all our starters with the exception of first-baseman Ben Paulsen,” continued Leggett. “And with all our veterans a year older, I expect them to have great seasons and give us the ability to put pressure on opposing pitching staffs. It has also created stability in the field defensively.”

The pitching staff, which finished the 2009 season #5 in the country in ERA (3.68), is under the leadership of first-year Assistant Coach Dan Pepicelli. He spent the last nine seasons as the head coach and pitching coach at Saint John Fisher College in New York.

“The pitching staff is in good hands under Coach Pepicelli,” stated Leggett. “His knowledge of fundamentals, communication skills, and work-ethic are qualities that drew me to him. I have every bit of confidence that Coach Pepicelli will be able to assist in taking our pitchers to the next level.”

The Tigers lost key pitchers Matt Vaughn, Trey Delk, Graham Stoneburner, and Chris Dwyer to either graduation or the Major League draft. All five pitched at least 38 innings and were instrumental in the 2009 season that included winning the Clemson Regional title.

“It will certainly be difficult to replace great leaders like Matt Vaughn and the other pitchers who were key to our success in 2009,” added Leggett. “But we brought in an outstanding class of freshman pitchers who will make an immediate impact.”

Leggett and Recruiting Coordinator Tom Riginos, who is in his eighth season in Tigertown, brought in 11 newcomers, a class that was ranked #20 in the nation by Baseball America. Leggett, Riginos, Pepicelli, and second-year Volunteer Assistant Coach Michael Johnson will lead the Tigers in its 22nd straight season with a preseason top-25 ranking, as Clemson is #15 in Sports Weekly’s preseason coaches poll.

The 2010 schedule features 35 home games, 27 games against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams, and three games at Fluor Field in Greenville, SC. The Tigers will play 17 of their first 21 games at home. Clemson will also play rival South Carolina three times, once in Clemson, once at Fluor Field, and once in Columbia over the first weekend in March. The top-eight teams in the ACC standings will play in the ACC Tournament at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, NC from May 26-30.

Catchers Both catchers who combined for all 66 starts a season ago return, an important fact considering Clemson’s young pitching staff. Junior John Nester (Greer, SC) started 46 games at catcher in 2009 and hit .304 along with five homers and 33 RBIs. Nester, who will provide depth as a backup first-baseman, hit .344 in his last 40 games after a slow start and improved his ability to throw out potential basestealers over the course of the season.

Sophomore Phil Pohl (Cooperstown, NY) started 20 games behind the plate as a freshman and hit .194 in 67 at-bats. Pohl, who allowed just one passed ball, will compete for the starting spot with Nester.

Two freshmen will compete for innings at catcher in 2010. Spencer Kieboom (Marietta, GA) was an all-state pick as a junior and senior at Walton High School. Walk-on Marcus Curry (Nichols, SC), who lettered four times at Green Sea Floyds High School, will also provide depth for the Tigers.

Infielders Clemson has seven full-time infielders, including senior co-captain Mike Freeman (Orlando, FL). After spending his freshman season at Georgia, he has been a constant at second base and the top of the batting order the past two years. He is a dependable fielder (committed just seven errors in starting all 66 games in 2009) and is a career .309 hitter in 168 career games (158 starts) at the collegiate level. He was also drafted in the 36th round in 2009.

On the left side of the infield, two sophomores are slated to hold down the starting spots after starting as freshmen in 2009. Shortstop Brad Miller (Windermere, FL) was one of three Tigers to start all 66 games and has an excellent eye at the plate. He led the team and was tied for 11th in the nation in walks (53), most in school history and most in the nation by a freshman. He also batted .273 with 49 runs and a team-high 16 stolen bases.

Jason Stolz (Marietta, GA) is a strong candidate to start at third base after starting 42 games at that position as a freshman. Stolz, who has an excellent arm and good speed, hit .315 in 143 at-bats and had a solid .960 fielding percentage in 2009.

Sophomore John Hinson (Asheville, NC) red-shirted in 2009 after suffering a back injury. He has the ability to play any position in the infield and will compete for a starting job. As a freshman in 2008, he hit .264 in 87 at-bats.

Three newcomers will compete for innings as freshmen in 2010. A leading candidate to start at first base is Richie Shaffer (Charlotte, NC). The three-time all-state selection at Providence Senior High School was drafted in the 25th round in 2009. Shaffer, who also will provide depth in the bullpen, was rated as the #27 high school prospect in the nation by Baseball America.

Seth Neely (Rock Hill, SC) and Kevin Caughman (Martinez, GA) are two more Tigers who will compete for innings as freshmen in 2010. Neely, a graduate of Rock Hill High School, was the #12 high school prospect in South Carolina by Perfect Game. Caughman was an all-region selection as a senior at Evans High School.

Outfielders The Tigers return all five of their regular outfielders from a season ago. It is the deepest position on the Tiger roster, as the five are all juniors or seniors. There will be fierce competition among the five for the three starting spots.

Fifth-year senior Wilson Boyd (Hickory, NC) is Clemson’s lone holdover from its last trip to the College World Series in 2006, as he red-shirted that season. He batted .341 with 46 RBIs in making at least 11 starts apiece at all three outfield spots in 2009. He was also a clutch performer, as he had two walkoff hits and hit a team-best .481 with runners in scoring position. Boyd is a career .308 hitter with 34 doubles, seven triples, 16 homers, and 120 RBIs in 173 games (153 starts).

Junior Jeff Schaus (Naples, FL) was Clemson’s lone First-Team All-ACC selection in 2009 after he hit .320 with 14 doubles, 13 homers, 50 RBIs, and a .424 on-base percentage thanks to 42 walks against only 29 strikeouts. Schaus, who like Boyd had two walkoff hits in 2009, is a leading candidate to start in left field.

Kyle Parker (Jacksonville, FL) will compete for the starting spot in right field. Parker, the starting quarterback as a red-shirt freshman who led the Tigers to nine wins, passed for 2,526 yards and was a second-team freshman All-American in 2009. He has already played two baseball seasons and has totaled 26 homers and 102 RBIs in 120 career games. He reached 25 home runs in just 103 games, quicker than any other Tiger in history. Parker will also provide depth at first base.

Junior co-captain Chris Epps (Stone Mountain, GA), who will compete for the starting spot in right field, was Clemson’s hottest hitter down the stretch in 2009. He hit .297 with a .415 on-base percentage overall, but batted a team-best .464 with two homers, nine RBIs, and eight runs in seven NCAA Tournament games. Epps was named Clemson Regional MVP after his two-run homer in the seventh inning ignited the Tigers’ comeback from a 5-1 deficit in the championship game against Oklahoma State.

One of the Tigers’ fastest and most exciting players is Addison Johnson (Pfafftown, NC), who is also the team’s best defensive outfielder. Johnson, who was drafted in the 48th round in 2009, is a career .458 hitter in nine career NCAA Tournament games and will compete for the starting spot in centerfield.

Pitchers The pitching staff is an area of the team that has many uncertain roles in 2010. One player who has proven his steadiness over the years is junior lefthander Casey Harman (South Burlington, VT). In 49 career appearances (15 starts), he has a 3.93 ERA in 130.2 innings pitched. He has also allowed just 26 walks while striking out 133, as his 5.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best mark in school history. Harman is slated to be a weekend starter in 2010 after earning the Stowe Award as the team’s most valuable pitcher in 2009.

Two sophomores will also compete for starting spots on the weekend. Scott Weismann (Boxborough, MA) had a 3-1 record and 1.23 ERA in 17 appearances (three starts) as a freshman. The righthander did not allow more than one earned run in any of his outings.

Will Lamb (Seaford, VA) was impressive in his 15 appearances as a freshman and will have an increased role in 2010. The 6’5″ lefthander had a 2.45 ERA in 22.0 innings pitched. Lamb will also provide depth in the outfield as one of the fastest players on the team.

Senior co-captain Justin Sarratt (Gaffney, SC) has been used as a long reliever and spot starter during his career. The righty has a 3.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, sixth-best in Clemson history, over his 56 career appearances. Sarratt also earned the Dedication Award in 2009 for outstanding work in the strength training room.

Three more returning righthanders will have an opportunity to become starters in 2010. Sophomore David Haselden (Spartanburg, SC) allowed just one walk with 16 strikeouts in 17.2 innings pitched in 2009.

Josh Thrailkill (Arden, NC) has been plagued by injury during his entire career, but he has the tools to become a force for the Tigers. He was rated as the #20 prospect in the nation by Baseball America out of high school.

One of the most valuable and unsung pitchers in 2009 was righthander Tomas Cruz (Amarillo, TX). The senior righthander was versatile as a junior in that he provided innings in both long and short relief. He had a 3.33 ERA and .195 opponents’ batting average in 46.0 innings pitched over 24 relief appearances.

Junior righthander Alex Frederick (Lagrangeville, NY) had a 3.72 ERA in six relief appearances in 2009 and will provide depth in the bullpen. Freshman lefty Joseph Moorefield (Woodruff, SC) red-shirted in 2009 and will also compete for innings in 2010.

Clemson added six freshman hurlers to the roster, five of which are righthanders. The lone lefthander is Kevin Kyle (Atlanta, GA). The graduate of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School won the Omaha Challenge competition among the pitchers in the fall.

Scott Firth (Buffalo Grove, IL), Clemson’s first player from Illinois since 1991, was a 36th-round draft pick out of Adlai E. Stevenson School and is a strong candidate to make an immediate impact in 2010.

Dominic Leone (Norwich, CT) is another young righthander who will compete for a significant role in 2010. He was rated as the #1 high school prospect in Connecticut by Perfect Game after a standout career at Norwich Free Academy.

Three more freshman righthanders added to the staff were J.T. Wauford (Midlothian, VA). Kent was a first-team all-state pick at West Springfield High School. Meyer was the section pitcher-of-the-year at Cathedral Catholic High School, while Wauford was a first-team all-state selection at The Steward School.