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2014 Clemson Baseball Outlook

2014 Clemson Baseball Outlook

The 2014 Tigers enter the season with one of the most experienced teams in recent history. Eight of the nine position starters and pitchers who accounted for 77 percent of the innings pitched return from the 2013 squad. It is a luxury that Head Coach Jack Leggett, who was inducted into the ABCA Hall of Fame on January 3, is enjoying for a team that was ranked #13 in the nation in Baseball America’s preseason ranking.

“I’m extremely excited about the team we have in 2014,” said Leggett, whose 887 wins in his 20 seasons as head coach at Clemson are tied for sixth-most in the nation during that time span.

“We have a lot of experience returning from key parts of the team that should be invaluable during our always-tough ACC schedule. Our goal remains the same…to return to Omaha and compete for the National Championship.

“The key is this…we have some guys coming back, but they all have to be better. If they come back and they’re the same, then we haven’t really gone where we need to go. That’s why you always bring in good players. You try to push them to another level and provide intra-team competition, and if one of them emerges ahead of someone who’s been here for awhile, so be it.”

“I think offensively and pitching-wise, we have a chance to be a better team than we were last year. We have more depth, more guys who can run, more interchangeable parts, and more intra-team competition. We know how we have to play to win, so I like the fact that we have a little more to choose from.”

Those new players, hand-picked by the coaching staff, including Assistant Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Bradley LeCroy, were rated as the #16 recruiting class in the nation by Baseball America. His prowess on the recruiting trail was a major reason Baseball America rated LeCroy, who is in his second stint and seventh overall season at Clemson, as the ninth-best assistant coach in the nation a year ago.

The pitching staff, led by fifth-year Associate Head Coach Dan Pepicelli, returns its top two starting pitchers from the 2013 season, which saw the Tigers record their best ERA (3.21) since the 1996 season.

Volunteer Assistant Coach Stephen Faris returns in his new position after serving as a student assistant in 2013. Faris was a standout righthander for the Tigers from 2004-06 who pitched in the 2006 College World Series.

The 2014 schedule features 33 home games and three games at Fluor Field in Greenville, SC, contests against Furman, South Carolina, and UNLV. Clemson will open the season with a seven-game homestand, beginning with a three-game series against Eastern Michigan. The Tigers will also travel to the two new ACC members, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, during the second half of the regular season.

Visiting opponents to Doug Kingsmore Stadium will see improvements on the playing surface. Last summer, the field was re-leveled, new sod and dirt was placed on the field, and a state-of-the-art drainage system was added. Home plate was also moved out 10 feet while the outfield fence was left in place.

CATCHERS Behind the plate, Clemson returns its top offensive player from the 2013 season in junior Garrett Boulware (Anderson, SC), a team co-captain in 2014. He hit .308 with team highs in homers (8) and RBIs (45) while starting all but two games behind the plate in 2013. Boulware, who committed only two errors, received the Mitchell Award as Clemson’s most valuable player.

The other catcher who will compete for the starting job is freshman Chris Okey (Mount Dora, FL). Clemson’s highest-touted player in the freshman class, Okey was drafted in the 31st round by the San Diego Padres in 2013. He was also rated as the #20 player in the nation by Perfect Game.

INFIELDERS Clemson’s entire infield returns intact from 2013, led by senior switch-hitter Steve Wilkerson (Roswell, GA). The two-time, Second-Team All-ACC second-baseman has had three double-digit hitting streaks in his career and batted .291 with a team-high 16 doubles in 2013.

Fellow senior Jon McGibbon (Lindenhurst, NY) returns after starting 58 of 62 games at first base in 2013. McGibbon, a two-time team co-captain, including 2014, was one of the hottest Tigers at the plate late last year and committed only one error in 562 chances at first base in 2013.

Sophomore shortstop Tyler Krieger (Johns Creek, GA) was one of only two Tigers to start every game at one position as a freshman in 2013. The switch-hitter had a strong .958 fielding percentage, committing only 12 errors in 289 chances. He also hit .310 with runners in scoring position.

Third base was less settled in 2013, as junior Jay Baum (Alpharetta, GA) made a team-high 32 starts there. One of the team’s most versatile players, Baum has seen action at third base, second base, first base, and in the outfield during his career.

Senior Mike Dunster (Greenwich, CT) has been used primarily as a pinch-hitter during his career, but has the versatility to play at second base and third base. He is a .273 hitter along with 11 putouts and 12 assists without committing an error in 45 career games.

Four freshmen, three in their first year and one red-shirt freshman, will also compete for playing time in the infield. Eli White (Easley, SC) was drafted in the 26th round by the Cincinnati Reds last summer and was a top-300 player in the nation according to Perfect Game.

Weston Wilson (High Point, NC), like White, will vie for the starting role at third base and can also play at second base. Wilson was a two-time, all-state selection and was the #228 player in the nation by Perfect Game.

Corner infielder Glenn Batson (Greenville, SC) was the top-rated third-baseman in South Carolina by Perfect Game after lettering three times at Greenville High School.

Red-shirt freshman Andrew Cox (Belton, SC), who will also compete for a starting outfield spot, is a candidate for playing time at first base thanks to his strength at the plate.

OUTFIELDERS The Tigers’ top-returning outfielder is sophomore Steven Duggar (Moore, SC), a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball in 2013. He batted .300 with 15 steals as one of only three Tigers to start every game. Duggar also led the team in outfield assists (9) thanks to his strong arm from his right-field position.

Junior Tyler Slaton (Cumming, GA) made a team-high 44 starts in left field a season ago, but will be a leading candidate to start in center in 2014. Slaton was one of the team’s hottest hitters in the second half of the 2013 season and was 11-for-26 (.423) after the seventh inning.

Senior Shane Kennedy (Orlando, FL), who saw most of his action at third base and as the DH in 2013, returns after leading the 2013 team in batting average (.317) along with totaling five homers, 35 RBIs, and a team-high 22 stolen bases. However, the Second-Team All-ACC selection, who will have an opportunity to start in the outfield, suffered a torn ACL in the fall and will be out of action until April.

Sophomore Maleeke Gibson (Sumter, SC) was Clemson’s predominant leadoff batter last May and will utilize his speed to compete for a starting spot in the outfield in 2014.

Senior Joe Costigan (Naples, FL) has been one of the Tigers’ top hitters off the bench during his career. He has a .265 batting average and .392 on-base percentage in 71 games.

Perhaps the Tigers’ top hitter off the bench in 2013, sophomore Mike Triller (Rutland, VT) was 9-for-27 (.333) in 23 games and is one of the team’s hardest workers.

Red-shirt freshman John Mulkey (Greenwood, SC) sat out in 2013 after a standout career at Emerald High School, while freshman Reed Rohlman (Moore, SC), who was a top-500 player in the nation by Perfect Game, will also compete for playing time in the outfield.

PITCHERS The Tiger pitching staff returns its unquestioned ace in junior righthander and team co-captain Daniel Gossett (Lyman, SC). The preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball was a Second-Team All-ACC selection in 2013. He had a 10-4 record and 2.56 ERA in 16 starts. In 98.1 innings pitched, the hard thrower and competitor gave up just 78 hits and 38 walks with 91 strikeouts. Gossett became the first Tiger since 2002 to amass 10 wins in a season.

Clemson’s leader in ERA also returns in sophomore lefthander Matthew Crownover (Ringgold, GA). The freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball had a 7-3 record and a team-best 2.19 ERA in 15 appearances (14 starts) in 2013. He allowed only 64 hits and 17 walks in 70.0 innings pitched while becoming the first freshman to lead Clemson in ERA since 2003. Crownover also led the league in ERA in ACC regular-season games with a 1.73 mark.

Another leading candidate to start on the mound is sophomore lefty Zack Erwin (Duluth, GA). He saw most of his action out of the bullpen as a freshman in 2013, but moved into the weekend rotation in early May. Erwin had a 5-2 record, two saves, and a 3.45 ERA in 60.0 innings pitched and did not allow more than three earned runs in any of his 22 appearances.

Junior righty Jake Long (Anderson, SC) sat out in 2013 after transferring from East Tennessee State. He will compete for a starting spot after impressing coaches with his command and breaking ball in the fall.

Like Long, junior righty Kevin Pohle (Saint Louis, MO) missed the 2013 season, but he did so while recovering from a shoulder injury. Pohle had a 7-4 record and 3.66 ERA in 76.1 innings pitched over 16 appearances (14 starts) in 2012.

Another candidate to start on the mound is sophomore righthander Brody Koerner (Concord, NC). He was Clemson’s top midweek starter as a freshman who had a 1-1 record and 3.99 ERA in 10 appearances (five starts).

The bullpen returns most of its pitchers from the 2013 season, led by junior righthander Patrick Andrews (Hilton Head Island, SC). The hard thrower had a 2.87 ERA in 23 appearances. In 37.2 innings pitched, he yielded only 30 hits and 10 walks with 25 strikeouts while not throwing a wild pitch.

Senior righty Matt Campbell (Alpharetta, GA) had a team-high seven saves in 2013, but he will look to improve on his 4.82 ERA. In 28.0 innings pitched, he gave up just 19 hits, no stolen bases, and had a team-best .192 opponents’ batting average along with 35 strikeouts.

Another effective reliever who returns is junior righthander Kyle Schnell (Alpharetta, GA). The sidearm pitcher had a 2-0 record, two saves, and a 2.84 ERA in a team-tying-high 24 appearances during the 2013 season. His ability to retire righthanded batters will be key to Clemson’s success in 2014.

Another sidearm righthander on the 2014 staff is junior Clay Bates (Rock Hill, SC). The three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll member has the team’s highest GPA. Bates had a 1-0 record and 3.60 ERA in 10 relief appearances while holding opponents to 1-for-11 (.091) with runners in scoring position in 2013.

Sophomore righty Clate Schmidt (Acworth, GA) started the 2013 season with a bang, earning the Bob Bradley Award as Clemson’s MVP of the South Carolina series thanks to his victory over the #7 Gamecocks on March 2. He will look to regain his early 2013 form as a reliever in 2014.

Sophomore righty Jackson Campana (Charlotte, NC) was a two-way player as a freshman, but will concentrate solely on pitching in 2014. The tallest player on the team at 6’6″, Campana had a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched in 2013.

Seven freshmen will be in the mix as well in 2014. Red-shirt freshman righthander Wales Toney (Anderson, SC) will compete for innings in 2014 after showing his prowess in the fall. He was the #99 freshman in the nation prior to the 2013 season according to Perfect Game.

Freshman righthander Garrett Lovorn (Pendleton, SC) also red-shirted in 2013 after a standout career at nearby Pendleton High School. He will compete for innings out of the bullpen in 2014.

Two-way player Alex Bostic (Matthews, NC), who has the ability to play in the outfield, is a strong candidate to contribute in 2014 as a lefthander on the mound. Bostic was the #174 player in the nation by Perfect Game.

South Carolina natives and freshman righthanders Tucker Burgess (Liberty, SC) and Drew Moyer (Gilbert, SC) will compete for innings out of the bullpen in 2014. Burgess was one of the 10-best pitchers in the state according to Diamond Prospects, while Moyer was a top-500 player in the nation by Perfect Game after being an all-state selection as a senior.

Freshman lefthander Hunter Hill (Little Mountain, SC) and red-shirt freshman righty Adam Hosler (Clemson, SC) will also compete for playing time in 2014. Hill was the #8 lefthander in South Carolina by Diamond Prospects, while Hosler, the son of two Clemson University professors, played at nearby Daniel High School.