2011 Clemson Baseball Outlook

Overview After advancing to the Final Four of the College World Series in 2010, many of the key players who helped Clemson reach the mecca of college baseball return for the 2011 season. The Tigers are coming off their sixth College World Series appearance in 17 seasons under Head Coach Jack Leggett.

“I’m really excited about the upcoming season,” said Leggett. “We have a strong group of veterans coming back. We lost some good players from last year, but at the same time, I think we’ll be able to try to send the reinforcements in there and see what they are capable of doing.

“I’m excited about our offense. I’m excited about some of our players who are going to step up in the pitching department. We have some depth, some good attitudes, and some good athletes. So I feel confident with what we have coming into the year.”

Leggett, who has taken the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in 16 of his first 17 seasons, has amassed 769 wins at Clemson, seventh-most in the nation during that span. That is more victories than the likes of Texas, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Only four of the eight position starters return from a year ago, but many of the spots vacated by starters Wilson Boyd, Mike Freeman, John Nester, and Kyle Parker will be filled by veterans with previous starting experience. Leggett will also count on a talented group of freshmen along with the 20 returning lettermen.

“I think we’ll bring the freshmen along slowly,” continued Leggett. “Some of them will be working their way into the lineup or onto the mound. But at the same time, a lot of the players coming back have the experience that it takes to get back to Omaha and play within this conference. They’ll still get a lot of opportunities to show what they can do in the beginning.”

The pitching staff, under the leadership of Assistant Head Coach Casey Harman) to the Major League draft, but every other Tiger who started a game on the mound in 2010 returns in 2011.

Clemson also welcomes back a familiar face in Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Bradley LeCroy. The former Tiger utility player (1997-00) served as Clemson’s volunteer assistant coach from 2003-05. He was an assistant coach at Western Carolina (2006,07) and Tennessee (2008-10) before getting the call to return to his alma mater during the offseason.

Tomas Cruz (2009,10) will serve as a student assistant coach in 2011. The five-man staff has one goal in mind for 2011.

“We all had a taste of Omaha last year, and when you get a taste of it, you want more,” added Leggett, who will lead the Tigers in their 23rd straight season with a preseason top-25 ranking, as Clemson is ranked #4 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll. “We’d love to go back and put a bid in to see who can win the whole thing in the new stadium. But we have some work to do, and we have to continue to get better every day. We’re taking it one day at a time and not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”

The 2011 schedule features 32 home games, 24 games against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams, and four games at Fluor Field in Greenville, SC. Starting with a three-game series against South Carolina from March 4-6, the Tigers will play 15 games against teams that played in the 2010 NCAA Tournament over a 21-game stretch. The top-eight teams in the ACC standings will play in the ACC Tournament at Durham (NC) Bulls Athletic Park from May 25-29. It will be the seventh time the ACC Tournament is held in Durham.

Catchers Clemson has two catchers on its 2011 roster with previous collegiate experience. Junior co-captain Phil Pohl (Cooperstown, NY) started 17 games behind the plate in 2010 and hit .212 with a homer and 19 RBIs in 66 at-bats. A reason for his high RBI total relative to his at-bats was the fact that he was 4-for-6 with a grand slam, two doubles, and 14 RBIs with the bases loaded. Pohl will be counted on for his leadership as one of the most respected players on the team.

Also in the mix to start behind the plate is sophomore Spencer Kieboom (Marietta, GA). He was the third-string catcher most of the 2010 season until he made the most of his opportunity to start in the postseason. He started all 11 games in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and had several key hits to lead Clemson to victory. Kieboom, who was 15-for-57 (.263) in 30 games (13 starts) in 2010, possesses an outstanding arm that will help the Tiger pitching staff hold opponent running games at bay.

Two freshmen will compete for innings at catcher in 2011. Marcus Curry (Nichols, SC) red-shirted in 2010 after lettering four times at Green Sea Floyds High School. Jake Fletcher (Thomasville, GA) was an all-state selection as a senior at Thomasville High School.

Infielders Three of the four spots in the infield will have a returning starter from a season ago. Junior co-captain John Hinson (Asheville, NC) burst onto the scene in 2010 with a .351 batting average, 17 homers, 75 RBIs, and a team-high 25 steals after starting the year as a backup. The preseason third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball was drafted in the 13th round in 2010 after earning several postseason honors as Clemson’s starting third-baseman. Hinson was 21-for-44 (.477) with five homers and 13 RBIs in the NCAA Tournament and earned Auburn Regional MVP and All-College World Series honors.

Junior co-captain Brad Miller (Windermere, FL) hit a team-high .357 with eight homers, 49 RBIs, and a .458 on-base percentage in 2010 thanks to his excellent eye at the plate as a shortstop. He also batted .402 with a .533 on-base percentage in ACC regular-season games, both second-best in the league, and had two double-digit hitting streaks in 2010. The two-time member of the USA National team is a preseason third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Junior Jason Stolz (Marietta, GA) is the leading candidate be the starter at second base after being a valuable third-baseman and shortstop in his first two years in the program. He batted .222 with a homer and 14 RBIs in 2010, but was hampered by a back injury. He possesses a strong arm and is one of the team’s fastest baserunners.

Sophomore Richie Shaffer (Charlotte, NC) started 36 games at first base in 2010. He batted .323 with seven homers and 36 RBIs and did not commit an error in 327 chances in the field. Clemson had a 35-13 record in games he played in and was 10-12 in games he did not play in, as he missed 17 games due to a hamstring injury. His power, which was exhibited when he hit three combined homers in the two wins over Alabama in the Clemson Super Regional, will be counted on in the middle of the lineup in 2011.

Red-shirt freshman Kevin Caughman (Martinez, GA) will provide depth in the infield. He made three plate appearances in 2010 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Three freshmen will be in the mix to compete for innings in the infield in 2011. Mike Dunster (Greenwich, CT) played in the Connecticut High School All-Star game in 2010.

Jon McGibbon (Lindenhurst, NY), a 29th-round draft pick by the Seattle Mariners, won the Omaha Challenge competition among fielders in the fall and has the power to make an impact at first base as a freshman in 2011. McGibbon will also add depth to the outfield.

Freshman Patrick Boyd (1998-01).

Outfielders Clemson returns four players with experience in the outfield, led by senior Jeff Schaus (Naples, FL). The three-year starter and two-time All-ACC player is a career .319 hitter with 237 hits, 41 doubles, 31 homers, and 168 RBIs in 195 games (193 starts). He hit .320 with 15 homers and 87 RBIs (tied for second-most in school history, fourth-most in the nation, and most in the ACC) as the starting leftfielder in 2010 and was drafted in the 27th round by the Cleveland Indians. Schaus is also a preseason second-team All-American by NCBWA.

The other three veteran outfielders will compete for the starting centerfield and rightfield spots. Senior co-captain Chris Epps (Stone Mountain, GA) is slated to be the starter in right field, but he also has starting experience in center. He is a career .244 hitter in 152 games (103 starts), but he has a .402 on-base percentage thanks to his excellent eye at the plate. His career mark of one walk every 3.97 at-bats is third-best in school history. He also won the 2010 Bob Bradley Award as Clemson’s MVP of the three-game series against South Carolina.

Fifth-year senior Addison Johnson (Pfafftown, NC) will compete for the starting spot in centerfield. He is one of the team’s best defensive outfielders and has outstanding speed. He is a career .259 hitter in 165 games (111 starts), but he is 13-for-31 (.419) with a .550 on-base percentage in 15 career NCAA Tournament games. Johnson will also add depth as a lefthanded pitcher in 2011.

Junior Will Lamb (Seaford, VA) is the tallest Tiger at 6’6″ and is one of the team’s fastest baserunners. He batted .289 with four homers, 36 RBIs, and 14 steals in 14 attempts in 2010 and is a strong candidate to patrol centerfield for the Tigers in 2011. The lefthander, who is the #84 prospect in the nation for the 2011 draft by Baseball America, is also in the mix to be a weekend starter on the mound thanks to his hard fastball. Lamb was 4-4 with two saves in 52.0 innings pitched over 18 appearances (10 starts) in 2010. He will add depth at first base in 2011 as well.

Senior Jay Cox (Belton, SC) sat out a season ago after transferring from Florence-Darlington Technical College. He lettered at the same school (Belton-Honea Path High School) that sent former All-American Matthew LeCroy (1995-97) to Clemson.

Two freshmen from Florida will compete for innings in the outfield in 2011. Dominic Attanasio (Windermere, FL) is a speedy outfielder who is from the same school (Olympia High School) that sent Miller to Clemson.

Freshman Andy D’Alessio (2004-07) and Schaus.

Pitchers The pitching staff has many roles up for grabs in 2011. Other than the loss of Harman, who started a school-record-tying 19 games in 2010, every other Tiger who made a start in 2010 returns in 2011.

Junior righthander Scott Weismann (Boxborough, MA) will lead the weekend rotation in 2011. He was in the weekend rotation during the entire 2010 season when he was 9-2 with a 4.90 ERA in 97.1 innings pitched. He became the first Tiger to record nine wins since 2006, while Clemson was 15-3 in his 18 starts. Weismann, who challenges hitters with his fastball, has performed at his best in the NCAA Tournament, as he is 4-0 with a school-record 1.71 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched in his career in NCAA Tourney play.

Sophomore righthander Dominic Leone (Norwich, CT) emerged late in the 2010 season to become a dependable starting pitcher. He had a 3-2 record and 4.78 ERA in 22 appearances (10 starts). He did not allow more than four earned runs or three walks in any of his 22 appearances and gave up just two long balls (both solo homers).

Sophomore righty Scott Firth (Buffalo Grove, IL) was one of Clemson’s top weekday starters as a freshman in 2010. In 32.2 innings pitched over 16 appearances (four starts), he was 2-1 with a team-best 3.58 ERA. He used his downward movement to record 44 groundball outs compared to just 23 flyball outs in 2010.

Junior righthander David Haselden (Spartanburg, SC) has experience as a starter, long reliever, and closer. In 58.2 innings pitched over 29 appearances (three starts) in his career, he has allowed only 14 walks with 45 strikeouts, good for a 3.21 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He hopes to have the same start to the 2011 season as he did in 2010, when he pitched 9.0 innings before he allowed his first hit and first run of the year.

Graduate co-captain and righthander Justin Sarratt (Gaffney, SC) also has the versatility to be a starter and reliever. He missed most of the 2010 season due to an elbow injury, but should be at full strength in 2011. Sarratt has exhibited excellent control throughout his career, as he has walked only 27 batters in 112.1 innings pitched over 62 appearances (12 starts). His 2.16 walks-per-nine-innings-pitched mark is sixth-best in school history and he has not allowed a steal in his career. If he receives a letter in 2011, he will become the first Tiger in history to letter five times.

Senior righthander Alex Frederick (Lagrangeville, NY) was seldomly used in 2009, but he made himself known late in the 2010 season. He had a 7-2 record, a team-high four saves, and a 3.75 ERA in a team-high 33 appearances (one start) in 2010. He used his outstanding breaking ball to record saves in both of Clemson’s wins in the College World Series. He also earned wins in four consecutive outings and six of seven appearances late in the season. Frederick will compete for the starting closer spot in 2011.

Sophomore righty Kevin Brady (Gaithersburg, MD) has the ability to be a weekend starter and closer in 2011 thanks to one of the team’s best fastballs. He had a 1-0 record and a save in 22 appearances (two starts) in 2010. He also allowed only eight walks with 45 strikeouts in 37.1 innings pitched, good for a 5.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Sophomore righthander Jonathan Meyer (San Diego, CA) was one of the team’s best relievers early in 2010 and amassed a 2-1 record and two saves in 20 relief appearances. He will compete for innings out of the bullpen in 2011.

Also competing for innings out of the bullpen will be sophomore righty Mike Kent (Springfield, VA). He had a 1-1 record in six appearances (two starts) and held opponents to 2-for-16 (.125) with two outs in 2010.

Sophomore Joseph Moorefield (Woodruff, SC) is the only everyday pitcher who throws lefthanded on the 2011 staff. He made just six relief appearances in 2010, but he has the repertoire to be a factor for the Tigers in 2011.

Four newcomers will compete for innings in 2011. Freshman righthander Kevin Pohle (Saint Louis, MO) impressed coaches during the fall after being rated as the #2 righthander prospect in Missouri by Perfect Game.

Freshman righty Jon Surber (Lisle, IL) was a two-time all-state selection at Lisle Senior High School. He also possesses the versatility to compete for innings in the infield in 2011.

Freshman righthanders Matt Campbell (Alpharetta, GA), who lettered multiple times at Northview High School, and Clay Bates (Rock Hill, SC) will also provide depth in the bullpen in 2011. Bates won the Omaha Challenge among pitchers in the fall after a standout career at Northwestern High School.