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Jul 27, 2021

2021 Season Review

By: Brian Hennessy

Final Notes

Coming off a successful 2020 shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tigers had high hopes of continuing their winning ways in 2021. But Clemson struggled in close games and faced arguably its toughest schedule in history with 36 conference games and only 14 non-conference games as well as 43 of its 52 games against ACC and SEC foes, resulting in a 25-27 overall record and 16-20 conference mark.

The Tigers were in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth late into the season before ultimately suffering setbacks at the end of the year that prevented them from another winning season and an NCAA Tournament berth.

The 2021 Tigers still experienced several achievements. Clemson won six of its last eight games against top-25 teams, including a sweep of No. 4 Louisville by a combined score of 31-12 late in the season. It marked the first time since 2011, including the first time since joining the ACC in 2015, that Louisville suffered a three-game sweep.

Offensively, the Tigers set a school record for hit-by-pitches (80), including Kier Meredith’s 19, second most in school history. Clemson’s .257 batting average was paced by shortstop James Parker, who was a Second-Team All-ACC selection. Parker hit a team-high .324 with eight homers, 13 doubles and 38 RBIs in starting all 52 games. He also had two double-digit hitting streaks within the season and carried over a hitting streak from 2020 that ended in double digits.

Caden Grice, also a Second-Team All-ACC selection as a first baseman, was a first-team freshman All-American who led the team in homers (15), RBIs (53), slugging percentage (.618) and on-base percentage (.427). He contributed on the mound as well with 14 strikeouts in 10.0 innings pitched.

Bryce Teodosio, who was a strength & conditioning All-American by NCSA, continued to show why he was one of the nation’s best defensive outfielders, making many highlight-reel catchers in center field without committing an error in 2021.

The pitching staff, which was set back by several injuries early in the season, had a strong 2.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio, as it totaled 499 strikeouts in 458.2 innings pitched. The bullpen was its strength with a 4.34 ERA, .254 opponents’ batting average and 2.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Mack Anglin joined Grice on the All-ACC Freshman team. He had a 3.99 ERA, .227 opponents’ batting average and 75 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched. Nick Hoffmann had a team-high four saves along with 40 strikeouts against just five walks, a 4-1 record and 3.83 ERA. Geoffrey Gilbert had a team-best 2.23 ERA with three saves and 52 strikeouts against 15 walks in a team-high 28 relief appearances.

Mat Clark added 38 strikeouts against only one walk in 40.0 innings pitched to set school records for strikeout-to-walk ratio (38.00) and walks per nine innings pitched (0.23), while Keyshawn Askew had 69 strikeouts against only 11 walks in a team-high 57.0 innings pitched despite missing the first month of the season due to injury. Nick Clayton totaled a team-high six wins as a key long reliever as well.

The Tigers began the season wtih a three-game home sweep of Cincinnati by a combined score of 18-9. In the finale, James Parker lofted a walkoff single in the 10th inning in the 8-7 win.

The following weekend, the series opener against rival and No. 16 South Carolina that was scheduled for Doug Kingsmore Stadium was rained out, then the Gamecocks won two one-run games, both in walkoff fashion.

The Tigers rebounded with home wins against East Tennessee State and eventual ACC regular-season champion Notre Dame before the Fighting Irish won the final two games of the series. Grice earned national player-of-the-week honors by hitting four homers during the week.

The Tigers then fell in their next four games, suffering losses to USC Upstate (1) and No. 18 North Carolina (3) on the road to extend their losing streak to six games.

Clemson answered with 10 wins in its next 13 contests. A midweek victory over Georgia State and two wins in three home games against No. 13 Virginia Tech led to a 4-0 record the following week, upping the Tigers’ winning streak to five games.

Parker hit a home run in each of the three games against the Hokies. In the series finale, he hit a three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the eighth inning to lift Clemson to a 4-2 win.

The following midweek, Alex Urban hit a two-run walkoff homer to beat Georgia Southern at North Augusta, S.C. It was the first pinch-hit, walkoff home run in Clemson history.

The Tigers carried the momentum by sweeping upstart Boston College on the road by a combined score of 32-17 behind 44 hits. In the opener, Clemson rallied from two deficits thanks in large part to Grice’s four hits and seven RBIs in its 16-12 win. In the finale, Hoffmann tossed a complete game in his first career start in Clemson’s 7-2 victory. He gave up just six hits (all singles), two runs and no walks with seven strikeouts in throwing 111 pitches. It was the first complete game by a Tiger since 2017.

Grice earned ACC Player-of-the-Week and national hitter-of-the-week honors by totaling five extra-base hits and 13 runs in leading the Tigers to four wins on the week.

After a home loss to No. 23 Georgia, the Tigers won two of three games at NC State, a team that eventually made a deep run in the College World Series. Dylan Brewer totaled two homers and six RBIs in Clemson’s 10-6 win on April 2. He received national player-of-the-week honors for his three homers and 10 RBIs in four games.

Anglin had a dominant performance in the series-opening 6-1 home win over Virginia before the Cavaliers answered with two victories to win the series. Those two losses began Clemson’s seven-game losing streak, as the Tigers fell at home to College of Charleston before suffering a three-game sweep at No. 25 Miami (Fla.). The Tigers also fell at No. 21 Georgia 8-7.

Clemson rebounded again to win its next seven games, all at home. The Tigers swept Wake Forest by a combined score of 14-8. In the opener, Anglin had a team-season-high 11 strikeouts in the 5-2 victory to earn ACC Pitcher-of-the-Week honors, the first Tiger to receive that honor since 2017. The Tigers then swept a doubleheader two days later. In the first game, Davis Sharpe hit a two-run walkoff homer in the 6-4 victory.

After four days off for final exams, the Tigers handed the Cardinals a historic three-game sweep. Clemson hit .350 with 14 extra-base hits and a .500 on-base percentage, while the pitching staff had a 3.00 ERA and .210 opponents’ batting. In the first game, Grice totaled a school-record-tying three homers and eight RBIs, the most by a Tiger since 2006, in the 11-3 win. In the second game, Grice hit a solo homer in the eighth inning to break a 4-4 tie in the 5-4 victory. In game three, Clemson totaled 18 hits in the 15-5 win.

Grice was 9-for-13 (.692) with four homers, a double, 12 RBIs and seven runs in the series, as he earned national player-of-the-week and ACC Player-of-the-Week honors.

The Tigers capped their winning streak with a 9-2 home win over USC Upstate before suffering a three-game sweep at Georgia Tech.

Clemson concluded the series against No. 16 South Carolina with a 7-2 home win on May 11. Parker received the Bob Bradley Award as Clemson’s MVP of the three-game season series. He was 6-for-11 (.545) with a homer, double, four RBIs and two runs.

Clemson lost five of its last six regular-season games, including two setbacks at No. 10 Florida State. Sharpe pitched 4.1 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in the second game of the series to earn the win in the Tigers’ 9-5 victory. Eventual ACC champion Duke then swept Clemson at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

The Tigers headed to the ACC Tournament, which was held in Charlotte, N.C. for the first time, needing to advance deep into the tournament to extend their season. But Louisville ended any hopes with a 15-10 win over the Tigers in a game that saw the teams combine for 11 home runs, tied for the most in a game in Clemson history.

In its final game of the season, Clemson rallied from an early deficit to defeat No. 17 Georgia Tech 11-5 behind three-hit performances by Parker and Teodosio. Teodosio earned All-ACC Tournament honors by going 5-for-8 (.625) with two homers, two triples, a double and seven RBIs in two games. He also earned national player-of-the-week honors.

Six Tigers were selected in the MLB draft after the season. On the second day of the draft, Parker was selected in the eighth round (No. 234 overall) by the Seattle Mariners and Askew was picked in the 10th round (No. 292 overall) by the New York Mets. On the third and final day of the draft, four Tigers were chosen, Anglin (13th round, Nationals), Sharpe (13th round, Indians), Carter Raffield (14th round, Reds) and Adam Hackenberg (18th round, White Sox). Meredith (Red Sox) and Teodosio (Angels) signed free-agent contracts as well.