Midweek Preview: Clemson Pitchers Strong, Hitters Needing to Heat Up
Clemson coach Monte Lee knew pitching would be the strength of his baseball team this season, but even this kind of start was hard to predict at a position that struggled at times last year.
Behind improved depth and a strong freshmen class, the Tigers had a stretch last week of 33 consecutive innings without allowing a run.
"Did I think we'd be this good? I knew we would be good, I really did," Lee said. "I felt very confident saying that we'd be very good on the mound. To this extent? I don't know if you can ask a pitching staff to be this good through seven games. That's asking a whole lot to be able to throw up that many zeros and to pitch as many quality innings as we have this year."
The streak, which is the longest by the program since 1963, began against Furman last Wednesday and lasted until Sunday against Stony Brook, which Clemson swept over the weekend.
Sam Weatherly set the tone Friday with 14 strikeouts in six two-hit innings in a 2-0 victory.
The underlying issue, however, was Clemson’s offense, which is still looking for a breakout performance. The Tigers scored five runs over the weekend, but the pitching staff has only given up five earned runs (0.70 team ERA) this season.
"The more pitches you see, the more at-bats you get, you start to square up more balls," Lee said. "All we need is some guys to smoak some balls back-to-back. I think it will become contagious."
With a big weekend series against its in-state rival looming, Clemson (7-0) will look to get hot at the plate Tuesday at 4 p.m. against East Tennessee State, which is off to a 5-2 start.
The Bucs swept Toledo in the first weekend of the year before going on the road and losing to Virginia Tech 10-3. They rebounded this past weekend with a series win over Rider, including a 7-0 shutout.
RHP Tucker Rogers (0-0) will make his second appearance and first start of the season for ETSU. He’s got a 2.08 ERA in 4.1 innings pitched with five strikeouts and one walk.
The Bucs have five batters hitting over .300 who have played at least five games this year. They're led by Jake Lyle (.462, 5 RBIs) and Noah Hill (.357, 6 RBIs).
Clemson will counter with freshman RHP Mack Anglin, who gave up two runs (one earned) on one hit through three innings last week against Furman. Anglin struck out seven batters but walked four in his first career start.
By the numbers
•The Tigers’ pitching staff ranks fifth nationally with 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
•Sophomore outfielder Elijah Henderson leads Clemson in batting average (.478), hits (11), doubles (4), total bases (17) and stolen bases (3).
•Closer Carson Spiers has three saves and 10 strikeouts and has allowed two hits, one unearned run and two walks 8.0 innings pitched.
Coming up the weekend
Clemson takes on South Carolina in the annual rivalry series. It begins Friday at 7 p.m. at Founders Park in Columbia before moving to Segra Park on Saturday at 3 p.m. The series finale is set for Sunday at 2 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Clemson senior reliever Sheldon Reed suffered an arm injury Saturday that forced him to leave the game. Lee had no update Sunday but said an examination was expected Monday to "get a concrete idea of what we're looking at." Clemson has yet to release any prognosis on the right-handed pitcher.
Lee said third baseman James Parker (knee) is feeling better, but he's still day-to-day. He's got some progressions to make before he can get back on the field, but Lee said "maybe" Parker can play this weekend.