One of new Clemson head coach Erik Bakich's biggest early challenges is turning around a Tiger pitching staff that struggled the last two seasons.
The program ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in earned run average in both 2021 and 2022, and the starting pitching rotation was widely inconsistent, both in performance and people.
Bakich, who was officially hired Thursday to get a Clemson team that's missed the last two NCAA tournaments back into the postseason, must first find a pitching coach. He wants that hire, whoever it might be, to align with his mound philosophy.
"Somebody who can bring simplicity to what seems like a very advanced way of teaching pitching these days," Bakich said when asked what he's looking for in a pitching coach. "It's one thing to teach throwing. It's another thing to teach pitching. And you see a lot of that line being blended.
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"Throwing is not necessarily pitching. Developing your stuff is great and it's important to develop velocity and movement. But you also have to command the baseball and throw it where you want to."
Bakich, however, is coming off a season in which his former team struggled on the mound as well. Michigan ranked 12th out of 13 teams in the Big Ten with a 7.02 ERA.
Between next month's MLB draft and the NCAA transfer portal option, he doesn't know what his personnel will look like on the mound. Geoffrey Gilbert, who made five starts last season, and Billy Barlow, who made 15 starts, were at Thursday's introductory press conference. The Tigers have other young arms in Ricky Williams and Casey Tallent, among others, for Bakich to work with next season.
And Clemson's new head baseball coach has defined beliefs in how pitchers should perform at this level.
"Then there's a whole controlling the game component where it's important to pitch with a quick tempo," Bakich said. "It's important to be quick to the plate. It's important to field your position. So all of those things plus being ultra-competitive on the mound. When all else fails, it's that me vs. you mentality and I'm just going to get the dude out."
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