The 125th season of Clemson baseball is filled with optimism with a roster that is nearly half new players and a core group of strong contributors from a season ago. Head Coach Monte Lee, in his seventh season as the leader of the Clemson program whose 207 wins are tied for 21st most in the nation during that time, welcomes back many of its top players from 2021 and the No. 11 recruiting class in the country by Perfect Game.
Recruiting Coordinator Bradley LeCroy and Pitching Coach Andrew See, who have both served as Tiger assistant coaches for many years, contributed to another strong recruiting class. Volunteer Assistant Coach Jared Broughton, also returns for his third season in Tigertown.
Players who accounted for 42 percent of the starts in the 2021 season return in 2022. Five (James Parker, Keyshawn Askew, Davis Sharpe, Carter Raffield, Adam Hackenberg) of Clemson’s six drafted players in 2021 signed professional contracts. Two more Tigers (Kier Meredith, Bryce Teodosio) signed free-agent contracts as well. But with the improvements made by the new and returning players in the fall, Lee is optimistic about the 2022 Tigers.
“Our players and coaches worked extremely hard in the offseason to improve in every aspect, and we believe we have a strong group of returning and new players that will get us back on track,” said Lee. “We were able to develop and evaluate most of our newcomers in the fall. I’m excited to see the competition between those new players and our returning players for many positions in the spring.”
The 2022 schedule features 33 home games and 25 games against 2021 NCAA Tournament teams. The Tigers play Michigan State and USC Upstate at Fluor Field in Greenville, and they face South Carolina and College of Charleston at Segra Park in Columbia. The season begins Feb. 18 with a three-game home series against Indiana. The ACC Tournament returns to Charlotte, N.C. for the second year in a row as well.
The Tigers return two catchers, including sophomore Jonathan French (Lilburn, Ga.), who split time as the starter last season. In 31 games (27 starts), he hit .248 with five homers and 21 RBIs, but he hit .321 with runners on base and .306 with two outs.
Sophomore Cooper Ingle (Asheville, N.C.) never got his freshman season on track due to an illness early in the year, as he only had 16 at-bats in 10 games (four starts). But for the second fall in a row, Ingle, who can also play in the outfield and infield, was one of the team’s top hitters and looks to contribute in 2022.
Freshman Caid Byrd (Surfside Beach, S.C.), who also will compete for innings on the mound as a righthander, was a North-South All-Star Game selection after his standout high school career.
Sophomore Caden Grice (Greer, S.C.) is the leading candidate to start at first base, but he also is a contender to start on the mound as a lefthander. In 2021, he was the team’s top power hitter who batted .317 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs in 51 games on his way to earning first-team freshman All-America and Second-Team All-ACC honors. He led the team in runs, homers, RBIs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He is the No. 15 overall prospect for the 2023 draft by Perfect Game.
The veteran of the infield is junior Bryar Hawkins (Cumming, Ga.), who is a .291 hitter with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 104 games (90 starts) in his three-year career. He came on strong late in the 2021 season and hit .315 overall in 37 games. He is a leading candidate to start at third base in 2022.
Max Wagner (Green Bay, Wis.) and Blake Wright (Belleair, Fla.) are two more sophomores who will compete for a starting spot on the infield. Wagner showed flashes of his outstanding defense as a freshman, when he hit two homers in 35 games (22 starts). Wagner is a candidate to start at third base.
Wright played just 12 games (10 starts) at third base and will compete for a starting spot in the infield. He hit his first career home run in his home state at No. 10 Florida State on May 16 in his top moment of the year.
Sophomore Mac Starbuck (Easley, S.C.) is one of four Tigers on the 2022 roster who is in his fourth season in the program. Starbuck, who has not committed an error in 28 career chances, has played 14 games (eight starts) in his two active seasons.
Two graduate transfers, Benjamin Blackwell (Fairfax, Va.) and Tyler Corbitt (West Columbia, S.C.), will vie for starting positions in the middle infield. Blackwell, a leading candidate to start at shortstop, hit .309 with six homers, 62 RBIs and 30 steals in 114 games at Dayton from 2019-21. He also earned First-Team All-Atlantic 10 honors in 2021.
Corbitt, who also has the ability to play in the outfield, batted .347 with eight homers, 48 RBIs and 20 steals in 93 games at The Citadel from 2019-21. He received All-SoCon Freshman accolades in 2019 and is a leading candidate to start at second base in 2022.
Four first-year freshmen, Gavin Abrams (St. Johns, Fla.), Billy Amick (Batesburg, S.C.), David Lewis (Travelers Rest, S.C.) and Aries Samek (Teaneck, N.J.), will compete for playing time in the infield in 2022.
Abrams, who can also play in the outfield, is the No. 92 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game. He hit .378 as a senior in high school and hit a long ball in a scrimmage at Auburn in the fall.
Amick was injured during most of the fall, but he showed his power potential.
Lewis, the No. 388 freshman in the nation and No. 74 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game, was one of the top hitters during the Orange & Purple Scrimmages to conclude the fall. He was also a three-time all-state selection in high school.
Samek, who can also play in the outfield, is the No. 142 freshman in the nation and No. 29 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game. He was an all-state selection in high school.
The only returning outfielder with significant playing experience is sophomore Dylan Brewer (Latta, S.C.), who can also play at first base. He totaled 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 2021 and is a leading candidate to start in right field or center field. He is the No. 255 overall prospect and No. 135 college prospect for the 2022 draft by Perfect Game.
Fourth-year sophomore Chad Fairey (Greenwood, S.C.), who can also play at first base, missed all of 2021 with an injury, but he was one of the team’s top power hitters in the fall and will compete for the starting spot in left field. He has played 42 games (26 starts) in his two active seasons as a Tiger.
Sophomore J.D. Brock (Davidson, N.C.) played only 11 games in his first active season in 2021. Brock, who has also worked as a lefthander as a Tiger, will compete for a starting spot in the outfield in 2022.
Sophomore Spencer Rich (Longmont, Colo.) showed off his tremendous athleticism and power during the fall. He is a candidate to start in the outfield and is the No. 5 junior college transfer in the nation by D1Baseball. Rich hit .438 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs in 31 games with Daytona State (Fla.) College in 2021.
First-year freshman Will Taylor (Irmo, S.C.) was Clemson’s highest-rated signee, as he is the No. 4 freshman in the nation and No. 3 overall prospect for the 2024 draft by Perfect Game. He was a quarterback and wide receiver on the 2021 Tiger football team, but he suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 2 and missed the rest of the season. Taylor, who was drafted in the 19th round by the Rangers, will compete for a starting spot in the outfield upon his return from the injury.
Tristan Bissetta (Greenville, S.C.) is another first-year freshman outfielder. He is the No. 109 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game and was a North-South All-Star Game selection.
Third-year freshman Patrick Farrisee (South Bend, Ind.), who can also play behind the plate, was a member of the club baseball team at Clemson.
Eight Tigers who started at least one game on the mound in 2021 return in 2022. The leader of the group is sophomore Mack Anglin (Marengo, Ohio), a hard-throwing righthander who was drafted in the 13th round by the Nationals in 2021. The No. 134 overall prospect for the 2022 draft by Perfect Game was an All-ACC Freshman selection in 2021 who had a 3.99 ERA and team-high 75 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched over 13 appearances (eight starts). He is the leading candidate to be the Friday starter in 2022.
Fellow sophomore righty Nick Hoffmann (Centerville, Ohio) was one of the team’s most valuable pitchers in 2021 as a long reliever and starter. He is 6-2 with four saves and a 3.43 ERA in 60.1 innings pitched over 24 appearances (four starts) in his career. Hoffmann, who is a candidate for the weekend rotation, also has 51 strikeouts against only five walks in his career and was an All-ACC Academic selection in 2021.
Another contender for a weekend rotation spot is sophomore righthander Nick Clayton (York, S.C.). He has been one of the team’s top long relievers the past two seasons, as he is 7-2 with a save, 3.50 ERA, .225 opponents’ batting average and 48 strikeouts against 16 walks in 46.1 innings pitched over 24 appearances.
One of the outspoken leaders of the pitching staff is sophomore lefthander Geoffrey Gilbert (Charleston, S.C.). The 2021 All-ACC Academic selection had three saves, a 2.23 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 44.1 innings pitched over 28 relief appearances. He is a leading candidate for the closer role in 2022.
Sophomore righty Ty Olenchuk (Irmo, S.C.) was in the weekend rotation early in his freshman season. He had a .267 opponents’ batting average with 18 strikeouts against six walks in 23.0 innings pitched. He will compete for a spot in the weekend rotation in 2022.
Another sophomore righthander, Ricky Williams (Lexington, S.C.), is in the mix for a spot in the weekend rotation after primarily serving as a long reliever in 2021. He had a 2.57 ERA in 7.0 innings pitched over six appearances.
Junior righty Jackson Lindley (Anderson, S.C.) has been a long reliever and weekday starter during his career, as he is 3-0 while allowing only 13 walks in 41.1 innings pitched over 18 appearances (eight starts).
Junior righthander Rob Hughes (Rock Hill, S.C.), who is in his second season at Clemson after transferring from Furman, is one of the team’s dependable long relievers. He had a 4.24 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 23.1 innings pitched over 17 appearances in 2021.
Sophomore lefties Ryan Ammons (Easley, S.C.) and P.J. Labriola (Bradenton, Fla.) as well as sophomore righthander Alex Edmondson (Simpsonville, S.C.) have seen limited action as relievers, but they will all compete for more innings out of the bullpen in 2022.
Six first-year freshman righties will look to stand out in 2022, including Billy Barlow (North Myrtle Beach, S.C.), who is the No. 122 freshman in the nation and No. 25 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game after earning all-state honors in baseball and football.
Jay Dill (Dayton, Tenn.) is the No. 190 freshman in the nation and No. 42 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game after being a three-time state champion.
Josh Davis (Goose Creek, S.C.), Reed Garris (Mount Pleasant, S.C.), Austin Gordon (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) and Casey Tallent (Hartwell, Ga.) are four more freshman righties who will compete for innings on the mound. Garris also has the ability to play behind the plate.
Rocco Reid (Greenville, S.C.) and Camden Troyer (Greenville, S.C.) are first-year freshman lefthanders who are in the mix as well. Reid is the No. 151 freshman in the nation and No. 30 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game, while Troyer can also play in the outfield.