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Jul 03, 2019

2019 Season Review

By: Brian Hennessy

Final Notes

The 122nd edition of Clemson baseball saw the Tigers jump out to a 24-7 record and 11-3 ACC mark. But the Tigers, who registered their 55th consecutive winning season, staggered down the stretch. Nevertheless, Clemson fought its way to its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in a row, one of only five schools that can make that claim.

Led by fourth-year Head Coach Monte Lee, the Tigers finished the season with a 35-26 overall record and 15-15 ACC mark. Clemson was at its best against the top competition, with a 9-8 record against top-25 teams and 6-3 mark versus top-10 foes. That included a three-game sweep of No. 3 North Carolina and three wins in four games against a top-10 Louisville squad.

The Tigers were ranked in the top 25 in each of the first 10 polls of the season to extend their streak (dating to 2016) to 55 consecutive polls. But unlike the previous three seasons, the Tigers struggled in close games, as 16 of their 26 losses were by one run, two runs or in extra innings.

Clemson turned to many new faces to play vital roles on the 2019 team. A total of 25 Tigers started at least one game, including 16 offensive players who started at least eight games.

The 2019 season marked the first time since 2010 the Tigers totaled at least 80 homers and 80 steals in a season. Fourteen Tigers accounted for the 82 long balls, 11th most in the nation, and 13 Tigers contributed to the 91 steals, their most since 2013. The Tigers hit a home run in each of their first 11 games of the year after hitting a homer in each of their last two games of 2018. The 13-game streak tied a school record.

Leading the way at the plate was senior Grayson Byrd, who was an All-American and First-Team All-ACC selection. Byrd was one of six All-ACC Tigers, tied for most in the league. He hit .316 with 16 homers and 59 RBIs. Byrd also totaled 11 homers in the last 18 games and led the team in batting average, hits (79), homers, RBIs and slugging percentage (.588).

Logan Davidson, the Mitchell Award winner as the team’s most valuable player, hit .291 with 15 homers, 55 RBIs and 17 steals while committing only nine errors at shortstop. The Second-Team All-ACC selection had a 56-game on-base streak and became the first Tiger in history to total both double-digit homers and double-digit steals in three different seasons. Davidson was also named ACC Baseball Scholar-Athlete-of-the-Year and Clemson’s top male ACC Scholar-Athlete for all sports in 2019 thanks in large part to his 3.99 cumulative GPA and graduating in only six semesters. He was a first-team Academic All-American, Clemson’s third in history, as well.

Kyle Wilkie earned Third-Team All-ACC honors after hitting .307 with six homers and 41 RBIs, while Michael Green sparked the lineup late in the season after missing over half the season with an injury. He ended the season on a 14-game hitting streak, hitting .393 during the streak. Sam Hall added an ACC-high 30 steals, the most by a Tiger since 1994, while starting at least six games at five different positions.

Davis Sharpe and Mat Clark were both in the weekend rotation most of the season and were the most consistent pitchers on the 2019 staff. Sharpe was a Second-Team All-ACC selection, Clemson’s first freshman to be an All-ACC pitcher since 2000, and a first-team freshman All-American. He was 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA, .205 opponents’ batting average and a team-high 84 strikeouts in 84.1 innings pitched. He also hit .264 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 38 games on offense, as he was a finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player-of-the-Year Award.

Clark was a Third-Team All-ACC selection who earned the Stowe Award as the team’s most valuable pitcher. Clark, who moved into the weekend rotation in March, was 9-3 with a 3.21 ERA, .202 opponents’ batting average and 60 strikeouts in 73.0 innings pitched.

Carson Spiers, a Third-Team All-ACC selection, led the team in appearances (30) and saves (11), as he had a 3.59 ERA, .220 opponents’ batting average and 44 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched. Spiers also received the Tiger Baseball Award as the team’s best leader.

Clemson again received acclaim for its academic prowess, as the program was one of 15 in the nation and one of only two in the ACC with a 1,000 APR score.

The Tigers opened the season on a nine-game homestand and won seven of their first eight games. Clemson won two of three games against South Alabama to open the year. In the doubleheader on Feb. 16, Sharpe made his Tiger debut. In the first game, he tossed 5.0 scoreless innings of two-hit ball with eight strikeouts to earn the win. In the second game, he made his offensive debut and hit two homers with three RBIs. He was a national player-of-the-week and ACC Player-of-the-Week for his efforts.

After a midweek win against Charlotte, Clemson swept Virginia Military in three games. In the second game, Sharpe tossed 6.0 scoreless innings of one-hit ball with 11 strikeouts to earn the win. The Tigers then defeated East Tennessee State 14-3 behind a seven-run sixth inning.

South Carolina defeated Clemson twice in the annual rivalry series. The Tigers won 11-5 at Fluor Field in Greenville and Hall received the Bob Bradley Award as Clemson’s series MVP. He was 5-for-10 with a homer, double, three RBIs, four runs and three steals.

Clemson rebounded with a 4-0 week with a win over Furman at Fluor Field and a three-game home sweep of No. 3 North Carolina by a combined score of 25-9. In the opener, Clemson scored two runs in the ninth inning, with the walkoff run on a balk, to win 3-2, then it blasted the Tar Heels 17-3 behind 20 hits, including four hits each by Hall, Byrd and Bryar Hawkins, the first time three Tigers had four hits in a game since 2003. In the finale, Davidson crushed a two-run walkoff homer in a 5-4 victory.

The Tigers topped No. 11 Coastal Carolina 8-5 at home before Notre Dame won two of three games at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Clark tossed 7.0 scoreless innings of three-hit ball with seven strikeouts against no walks in Clemson’s lone win.

After a 13-1 home win over College of Charleston, the Tigers played their next eight games on the road and had a 7-1 record. Clemson defeated the Cougars in Columbia, then won two of three games at Boston College. In the opener, Sharpe pitched 7.0 scoreless innings of three-hit ball.

The Tigers defeated Charlotte 8-5 in their first game at BB&T Ballpark before sweeping Virginia Tech on the road by a combined score of 32-14. Byrd was 9-for-15 with five extra-base hits, seven RBIs and 10 runs on the week to earn ACC Player-of-the-Week honors. Sharpe, who played a vital role in Clemson’s 22-6 start, earned midseason national freshman-of-the-year honors by D1Baseball.

Clemson returned home the following week and fell to No. 4 Georgia 5-3 before winning two of three games against No. 8 Louisville behind strong starting performances by Sharpe and Clark.

After a 2-0 home win over Furman, Florida State turned its season around with a three-game sweep of the Tigers in Tallahassee, the first three losses of an eight-game losing streak. Two days later, Clemson played its longest game in history at No. 4 Georgia, who won 3-2 in 20 innings. Clemson pitchers totaled a school-record 24 strikeouts in the game that lasted six hours and 33 minutes. The Tigers also suffered a three-game home sweep against Duke and fell to Winthrop.

Clemson snapped the skid with a 7-4 win over Tennessee Tech before winning one of three games at Georgia Tech. In the finale, the Tigers trailed by four runs before rallying for an 11-7 win behind late-inning home runs by Justin Hawkins and Byrd, who was 6-for-14 (.429) with three homers, two doubles and seven RBIs in the series.

After final exams, Clemson split a home-and-home series with Gardner-Webb and split midweek home games against Presbyterian College (8-7 loss) and The Citadel (17-3 win). Byrd went 4-for-4 with two homers, a double, four RBIs and four runs in the win over the Bulldogs.

NC State won two of three games in Raleigh, as the Tigers’ lone win was a 4-3 victory in 10 innings, then the Tigers stayed on the road to defeat Coastal Carolina 14-3 behind a grand slam and six RBIs by Byrd.

The Tigers, who averaged 4,735 fans per home date, fifth highest in school history, closed the regular season with two one-run wins in three games over Wake Forest. Green had four hits and three RBIs in Clemson’s second win, a crucial victory that secured at least a .500 league record. Byrd added a long ball in each game, as he was a national player-of-the-week and ACC Player-of-the-Week for his efforts.

Clemson was the No. 8 seed in the ACC Tournament at Durham (N.C.) Bulls Athletic Park and fell to Boston College 7-5 in 11 innings, then it defeated No. 7 Louisville 7-1 to all but clinch an NCAA Tournament berth. Clark earned national player-of-the-week honors and was named to the All-ACC Tournament team after earning the win against the Cardinals. He retired the first 22 batters of the game and took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in one of the best pitching performances in Clemson postseason history.

The Tigers were a No. 3 seed in the Oxford (Miss.) Regional and defeated Illinois 8-4 in the opener. Wilkie had four hits and three RBIs, while Byrd contributed three hits, including a homer, and three RBIs. But their season came to an end with losses to No. 12 Mississippi (6-1) and Jacksonville State (9-2). Wilkie was 7-for-13 (.538) with a homer, double and four RBIs in the regional.

Five Tigers were selected in the MLB draft after the season. Davidson became Clemson’s 15th first-round draft pick in history when he was selected by the Oakland Athletics with the No. 29 overall pick. Wilkie (12th round), Owen Griffith (20th round), Byrd (24th round) and Brooks Crawford (29th round) were also chosen in the draft.