The 2020 Tiger baseball team is getting ready to kick off its spring season this weekend with a three-game series against Liberty. The team posted 35 wins last season and is hoping to continue its 11-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances.
Head Coach Monte Lee announced the starting pitching rotation that will take the mound against the Flames. Junior Sam Weatherly (Howell, Mich.) gets the nod on Friday, sophomore Davis Sharpe (Dacula, Ga.) starts on Saturday and sophomore Spencer Strider (Knoxville, Tenn.) will join junior Mat Clark (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) by splitting the final game of the weekend. Strider will be making his first appearance since the 2018 season.
Strider was Clemson’s top freshman in 2018, posting a 5-2 record and 4.76 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 51.0 innings pitched. He has one of the best fastballs on the team, but a season-ending arm injury kept him off the field in 2019.
The righty is feeling confident about returning to the mound this weekend. Lee will have him on a limited pitch count to begin the season, but Strider said that he has a closer mentality regardless of how many innings he throws.
“You need to make the most of every inning,” said Strider. “I’m going to go out there and get as many outs as I can as quickly as I can.”
Having a deep and talented pitching staff going into this weekend is comforting for the Tigers and Pitching Coach Andrew See. Strider said he is excited to be sharing the Sunday game with Clark. Although they are very different pitchers, the two have been working together on the same schedule.
Strider said that Clark is one of the hardest working players on the team, and he believes the pair as joint starters will do great things.
Relearning how to throw after his “Tommy John” surgery has not deterred Strider from expecting achievement. He said the process was calming, and not having to pitch constantly allowed him to break down the game and make crucial adjustments.
Scrimmages have given Strider an opportunity to regain his strength, and he has felt comfortable every time he has been on the mound. He is prepared and excited to finally play in a competitive game again.
Changing his diet has allowed Strider to become healthier. By becoming a vegan and completely cutting out animal products, Strider is gaining good weight, has more energy and is sleeping better. Veganism has also solved his problems with high blood pressure. Taking care of his body on and off the field has him feeling strong and prepared for the 2020 season.
Strider, a team leader on this year’s team, led the team in strikeouts in 2018 and is looking forward to being a dominant pitcher again this spring. He said the Tigers’ goal is to focus on what is important, which is pitching deep into the season and winning championships. Strider has felt this desire to win since his first visit to Clemson, and he said there is nothing like it.
Strider’s personal goal is to contribute to the team’s success in any way he can and help the team reach the College World Series. Strider as well as his recruiting classmates are working together to encourage the younger players.
“We’re very committed to achieving something special as a team and we all communicate and work very hard to pass that on to the rest of the team.”
Strider is also a leader off the field. When he is not playing baseball, he is focusing on academics. In the classroom, he is a political science major, and his grades earned him a spot on the ACC Academic Honor Roll in both 2018 and 2019.
The political science major is passionate about what he is learning and enjoys having a major that fits in with his interests. Strider believes that politics are more about maintaining your values and not about political parties.