Clemson's Weatherly Ready For Shot At Ace Role

Brad Senkiw

CLEMSON  For Sam Weatherly, taking the mound as the Opening Day starter has been “a long time coming.”

Entering his third season today at 4 p.m. with Clemson baseball (and second as a pitcher only), Weatherly beat out a deep pitching rotation to get a crack at the coveted Friday night ace role on the staff.

“It’s been years in the making,” the left-handed junior said this week. “There’s been a lot of hard work, and there are a lot of deserving guys on this staff who also could’ve gotten the (Friday) job.”

So how did the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Howell, Michigan, native go from no starts last year to first guy on the mound against Liberty?

“He’s got the best stuff,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “His stuff is electric. He’s the best athlete. He’s a guy who can handle the workload. He’s the strongest of the group and he’s also a competitor and leader.”

Lee wants a “dominator” on the mound on Fridays, a workhorse who can eat up innings and rack up strikeouts, especially when runners reach base.

But Weatherly says he wasn’t that guy last year, when he made 21 relief appearances.

“The downfall of me has been inconsistencies and not throwing strikes,” Weatherly said. “Working as a starter all fall, I just became more consistent and throwing more strikes.”

As a sophomore, Weatherly (2-0) posted solid numbers. He had a 3.38 earned run average and held opponents to a .175 batting average. He struck out 46 batters in 29.1 innings, but he allowed 30 base on balls.

“That’s something that I knew I needed to work on,” Weatherly said.

He spent the summer playing in the Cape Cod League and picked the brain of other players. Weatherly came back in the fall ready to be stretched out as a starter, but he had to prove he could handle it.

Weatherly said he closely listened to pitching coach Andrew See and finally bought into taking notes and watching film, something prescribed by the team’s sports psychologist, to fix his issues. His focus changed once he realized how to get better.

“I had a plan coming into the fall and I knew what was expected of me, what was required of me, if I wanted to start and I made that a conscious effort every day when I came to the field,” he said.

The key for Weatherly, who has a variety of pitches to confuse batters, has been identifying when his delivery is off. He thinks knowing now how to make the correct adjustments between pitches and get his delivery in the right place makes him ace material.

He’ll get the opportunity to show everyone at Doug Kingsmore Stadium he can be that guy against a Liberty squad that won 43 games last year.

“I feel confident. I feel ready,” Weatherly said. “I know the team is ready to play someone else.”