The 126th edition of Clemson Baseball has many familiar faces returning and a plethora of talented newcomers, but the headline is the addition of first-year Head Coach Erik Bakich, who has returned to Clemson to lead the program 21 years after serving as the volunteer assistant coach in 2002. Most notably, Bakich led the Wolverines to the College World Series and championship series in 2019.
New to the program, which set a record for highest semester GPA (3.09) in the fall, are first-year assistant coaches Nick Schnabel, Jimmy Belanger and Griffin Mazur. Schnabel, the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, followed Bakich from Michigan, as both wear jersey #23 in honor of their former head coach, the late Keith LeClair, who also wore #23.
Belanger, the pitching coach, served in that same role at Florida State from 2020-22. Mazur is the volunteer assistant coach and played at UC Irvine and under Bakich at Michigan.
Tiger players who accounted for 59 percent of the starts in the 2022 season return in 2023. However, Clemson must replace 2022 ACC Player-of-the-Year Max Wagner, a second-round draft pick, at third base and two of its weekend starters, Mack Anglin (seventh-round draft pick) and Geoffrey Gilbert (13th-round draft pick).
The 2023 schedule features 34 home games and 30 games against 2022 NCAA Tournament teams. The Tigers play USC Upstate and South Carolina at Fluor Field in Greenville in the same week early in the season, and they face College of Charleston at Segra Park in Columbia on March 28. The season begins Feb. 17 with a three-game home series against Binghamton. The ACC Tournament returns to Durham, N.C. for the 13th time overall and first time since 2019.
Junior Cooper Ingle (Asheville, N.C.) returns as the leader and sole veteran of the catchers. The preseason third-team All-American by Perfect Game is a career .330 hitter with a .433 on-base percentage, eight homers and 47 RBIs in 64 games. In 2022, he hit .351 in 54 games and threw out 12 of 31 potential basestealers.
Freshmen Hogan Garner (Charleston, S.C.) and Jacob Jarrell (Florence, S.C.) will compete for playing time behind the plate. Garner was rated as the No. 2 catcher in the state by Perfect Game and was the AAAA player-of-the-year as a senior. Jarrell lettered four times at P27 Academy and was the No. 34 player in South Carolina by Perfect Game.
Sophomore Nick Couch (Greenville, S.C.) is another Palmetto State native and catcher who will compete for time at catcher. Couch, who can contribute in the outfield, played two years at Spartanburg Methodist College.
Junior Blake Wright (Belleair, Fla.) was a Third-Team All-ACC selection at second base in 2022 thanks to hitting .349 with 12 homers, 10 doubles and 45 RBIs in 56 games during his breakout season. Wright, who had a .981 fielding percentage, also won the Tiger Baseball Award, given to the team’s best leader.
Senior Benjamin Blackwell (Fairfax, Va.) is in his second and final season at Clemson after transferring from Dayton. He emerged as the everyday starter at shortstop in 2022 and hit .327 with three homers, 33 RBIs, a .428 on-base percentage and 52 runs. He had a solid .951 fielding percentage as well.
Senior Riley Bertram (Zionsville, Ind.) is a graduate transfer from Michigan, where he played under Bakich. He played in the 2019 College World Series and hit .405 in 12 NCAA Tournament games as a Wolverine. Overall, he batted .271 with two homers, 66 RBIs and 77 runs in 132 games over four seasons at Michigan.
Junior Mac Starbuck (Easley, S.C.) is one of the team’s best defensive players, as he has not committed an error in 43 chances in his career. He will provide depth in his fifth year in the program.
Sophomore Billy Amick (Batesburg, S.C.) returns after limited action as a freshman in 2022. Amick, who can also play at catcher, is one of the strongest players on the team.
Five freshman infielders will compete for roles on the infield in 2023. Cooper Blauser (Johns Creek, Ga.), the son of former Atlanta Brave Jeff Blauser, was a second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and rated as the No. 374 freshman in the nation by Perfect Game.
Cam Cannarella (Hartsville, S.C.) showed his ability with his bat in the fall and was rated as the No. 477 freshman in the nation by Perfect Game. Jay Dillard (Anderson, S.C.) was an all-state selection at nearby T.L. Hanna High School.
Nolan Nawrocki (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) was rated as the No. 233 freshman in the nation and No. 9 player in New York by Perfect Game. Jack Reynolds (Columbia, S.C.) was rated as the No. 240 freshman in the nation and No. 1 shortstop in South Carolina by Perfect Game.
Senior Tyler Corbitt (West Columbia, S.C.), who has the ability to play in the infield, hit .290 with 11 homers, 40 RBIs and six steals in his first season at Clemson in 2022 after transferring from The Citadel. He is also a career .327 hitter in 146 games at the college level.
Sophomore Will Taylor (Irmo, S.C.), a wide receiver on the Tiger football team, saw limited action as a freshman in 2022 due to a torn ACL suffered on the gridiron in 2021. In 13 games last season, he hit .260 with a homer, four RBIs and a .397 on-base percentage. He was one of the highest-rated prospects to sign with the Tigers in recent history.
Junior Chad Fairey (Greenwood, S.C.) is in his fifth season in the program and has played 75 games (52 starts), totaling five homers and 30 RBIs. He is fourth in Tiger history in career walks per at-bat (one every 4.05).
Sophomore Gavin Abrams (St. Johns, Fla.), who can play in the infield, saw limited action as a freshman in 2022, going 1-for-3 with two RBIs in two games. Freshman Tristan Bissetta (Greenville, S.C.) redshirted in 2022, but showed his power potential in the fall.
Five freshmen will compete for roles in the outfield in 2023. Brodey Conn (Clemson, S.C.), the son of Clemson Football Co-Defensive Coordinator Mickey Conn and a safety and punter on the 2022 Tiger team, was rated as the No. 28 player in South Carolina by Perfect Game.
Jack Crighton (Rochester Hills, Mich.) can also play in the infield. Crighton was rated as the No. 186 freshman in the nation and No. 1 third baseman in Michigan by Perfect Game.
Nathan Hall (Lexington, S.C.) was rated as the No. 463 freshman in the nation by Perfect Game and was the AAAAA state player-of-the-year as a junior. Lleyton Lackey (Evans, Ga.) was rated as the No. 352 freshman in the nation by Perfect Game and was a first-team all-state selection as a junior and senior.
Junior lefty Ryan Ammons (Easley, S.C.) was an effective closer last year, and he will get a chance to pitch as a starter in 2023. He had eight saves along with 40 strikeouts and a .200 opponents’ batting average in 27.1 innings pitched in 2022. He also has a 13.93 strikeouts-per-nine-inning-pitched mark in his career.
Sophomore righthander Billy Barlow (North Myrtle Beach, S.C.), who is another leading candidate for a starting role, saw a heavy workload as a freshman in 2022, when he totaled 57 strikeouts in 17 appearances (15 starts).
Junior lefthander Caden Grice (Greer, S.C.) is among the top two-way players in the country. He has seen limited action on the mound, but expects to see more innings in 2023. In 109 career games at the plate, he is hitting .277 with 27 homers, 20 doubles, 93 RBIs, 85 runs and a .390 on-base percentage.
Senior righthander Jackson Lindley (Anderson, S.C.) emerged as one of the team’s most reliable relievers in 2022, when he had a 6-0 record, save and 4.28 ERA in a team-high 31 relief appearances.
Sophomore righthander Austin Gordon (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) showed flashes at the end of the 2022 season of being one of the team’s best pitchers. In ACC regular-season games, he had a 3.44 ERA and .203 opponents’ batting average.
Junior righthanders Nick Clayton (York, S.C.) and Nick Hoffmann (Centerville, Ohio) have been constants on the staff the past three seasons, providing good control and versatility. Clayton has a 7-3 record and 4.50 ERA in his career, while Hoffmann is first in Tiger history with a 5.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.36 walks-per-nine-innings-pitched mark in his career.
Sophomore righty Jay Dill (Dayton, Tenn.) was a regular out of the bullpen as a freshman in 2022, when he had 41 strikeouts and a .257 opponents’ batting average in 38.0 innings pitched.
Junior righthander Ty Olenchuk (Irmo, S.C.) has been both a weekend starter and reliever during his first two seasons at Clemson. He has totaled 46 strikeouts against only 15 walks in 53.2 innings pitched during his Tiger career.
Sophomore righty Casey Tallent (Hartwell, Ga.) was a long reliever in 2022, when he had a 3.86 ERA in 15 appearances. He held opponents to a .136 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Sophomore lefty Rocco Reid (Greenville, S.C.) saw limited action on the mound in 2022, but showed he is capable of being effective in 12 relief appearances.
Junior righthander Rob Hughes (Rock Hill, S.C.) redshirted in 2022 after suffering an arm injury. He has a 4.25 ERA in his three active seasons, including two at Furman and one at Clemson.
Sophomore righthander Reed Garris (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) was the third-string catcher most of the 2022 season before being thrust into a starting role late in the season. He did not pitch in a game in 2022, but will compete for innings on the mound in 2023.
Freshman righthander Josh Davis (Goose Creek, S.C.) redshirted in 2022 and after being selected to the North-South All-Star Game in high school.
Righthander and graduate transfer Willie Weiss (Portland, Ore.) will be relied upon during his final college year after playing three seasons at Michigan under Bakich. He has pitched in the College World Series and has a 9-6 record, 3.67 ERA, 17 saves and 127 strikeouts in 100.2 innings pitched in his career.
Junior lefthander B.J. Bailey (Woodruff, S.C.) is a first-year transfer from Spartanburg Methodist College, where he had a 3.43 ERA and 112 strikeouts in two seasons.
Freshman righties Joe Allen (Hampton Falls, N.H.) and Nathan Dvorsky (Suwanee, Ga.) showed promise in the fall. Allen was rated as the No. 77 freshman in the nation and No. 1 player in New Hampshire by Perfect Game. Dvorsky was rated as a top-50 righthander in Georgia by Perfect Game.
Freshman lefthanders Ethan Darden (Rock Hill, S.C.) and Tristan Smith (Boiling Springs, S.C.) are two more freshmen who will compete for innings on the mound in 2023. Darden was rated as the No. 193 lefthander in the nation by Perfect Game. Smith was rated as the No. 6 freshman in the nation and No. 1 freshman in the ACC by Perfect Game.