CLEMSON, S.C.- As Clemson gets set to begin postseason play in Charlotte next week, the Tigers find themselves shorthanded at catcher, one of the most important positions on the field.
While Cooper Ingle is cleared to hit, he is not expected to suit up behind the plate for the remainder of the season, due to an arm injury suffered against College of Charleston close to two weeks ago.
Jonathan French left Thursday's game against Boston College in the early innings after injuring his hamstring, and there is no timetable for a return. Enter true freshman Reed Garris, from the Mt. Pleasant area in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
A three-time all-state selection in high school, according to teammate Geoffrey Gilbert, Garris did not hesitate when his number was called, despite the fact that he'd only appeared in two games all season.
"He looked me dead in the eyes and said, 'Welp, here we go,'" Gilbert said. "I knew he was ready for it."
While Garris went hitless on Thursday night's blowout win over Boston College, the freshman came up clutch on Friday, collecting his first career hit. Garris finished the day 1-2 with an RBI and also worked a big walk in the seventh. He would eventually come around to score on Max Wagner's three-run homer.
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However, it's Garris' work behind the plate that has really stood out. Gilbert and Garris have a relationship that goes way back, and the left-handed pitcher has long known what his teammate was made of.
"Reed pretty much caught me since I was a senior in high school," Gilbert said. "Going back down to Charleston, working out freshman and sophomore year, he caught all my offseason bullpens and stuff, so I've known Reed since I was probably 10-11 years old. So it was really cool for us to be out there today. It gives me goosebumps talking about it. Because that's what you dream of when you come to a school like this."
"Obviously, being a third-string catcher now getting a shot to be out there today and catch me, it was awesome. We just smiled at each other and we were having fun out there. It just kind of reminded us of youth baseball. He did an excellent job though. I think he's just as good, and this is not a knock on Johnny or Cooper, but I think he's just as good defensively as Johnny or Cooper. There's no drop off there."
Gilbert then took it a step further, calling Garris not only one of the hardest-working players on the team but also calling him one of the most selfless, two attributes that everyone wants in a teammate.
"He's one of those dudes that he works his tail off," Gilbert said. "He's always prepared for whatever outcome. So he was just like, 'Welp, here we go.' I mean, I think last week in one day he caught five bullpens. So I mean, that tells you the work that he puts in. He's probably one of the most selfless guys on our team, but also one of the hardest workers."
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