Final Record: 45-25, 18-12 ACC
Atlantic Division Champions and Final 4 of College Baseball.
Final Rankings: #4 in three polls, Collegiate Baseball, National Collegiate Writers and USA Today/ESPN. It is the 5th time Clemson has finished so high. #10 finish in Baseball America and Rivals. The final Composite poll ranks Clemson 5th.
Preseason rankings had Clemson around 15th in most polls, as noted in our preseason preview.
2010 Baseball Recruits - As of now only Cole Brand has opted for MLB.
Season in Review
The Tigers started off the year 7-0 with wins over Miami (OH), Michigan State, Furman,Wright State, and Dayton. Three of the games were close and the game against Dayton went to 10 innings. We simply had more than these guys. The first tough series of the season was SC at home, at Fluor Field, and in Columbia with us taking 2 of 3 games.....and the 3rd in dominant fashion, 19-6.
Then at 10-1 we hosted a dominant-hitting NC State team and crushed them in a 3-game sweep. NC State pitchers had serious issues with walks and Clemson capitalized mightily with 24 runs in the doubleheader and another 7 in game 3. Another midweek game against Charlotte exposed our lack of a consistent midweek starter as we fell on the road 11-10 in a back & forth game. After that we crushed Georgia Southern and hosted an improving Virginia Tech squad and again surpassed expectations with a sweep.
At 17-2 the wheels fell off. Elon swept us in two midweek games because the a) defense gave them extra outs, b) no midweek starter, and c) we could not get RISP to home plate. Clemson's hitting wasn't the problem, but hitting with any runners on base became a serious issue until May. As is typical of a Leggett and Riginos team, they tightened up at the plate and fundamental baseball was forgotten there.
But the defense was actually getting better while we were losing midseason.
The Tigers went on the road to #1 Virginia and lost 2 of 3 to a better team. We are simply not better than Virginia. It was a very impressive squad with a great pen, great starters, good defense and good hitting. We did pitch very nicely in Charlottesville, but here it became apparent that Chris Epps forgot how to hit baseballs and he slumped the rest of the year. Without a leadoff hitter on base we had no one to drive in, because the middle of the order did hit. Clemson left 12 on base in one of the losses. Virginia somehow lost to Oklahoma in the Super Regionals, and the only explanation is that they simply went stone cold at the plate. We followed this up with a 4-3 loss to Coastal Carolina at home in 11 innings, another Super Regional team.
After this very tough week, we hosted Boston College and took 2 of 3, then swept the Peach State Puppies in a midweek series handily. Things set up well for Clemson to retake the Atlantic division and we had a schedule very favorable to that purpose, but we couldn't take care of business.
Clemson went to Duke and shit the bed. The hitting and the pitching were terrible, but this is where John Hinson took off at the plate. We lost to Western Carolina 7-5 and then went to Atlanta and got swept by a more-talented Georgia Tech squad, but again all 3 phases were terrible. We could've recovered and beaten a weak UNC team, but again we could not pitch at home. Losing to Matt Harvey is fine, he's a 1st round pick, but UNC had no consistent 2nd or 3rd starter and we couldnt handle Patrick Johnson nor the weaker bullpen. We had knocked ourselves out of the Atlantic lead and apparently lost it.
Clemson got Florida Gulf Coast at the perfect time just after Finals. Theyre not an awful team and 1st round pick Chris Sale outpitched us in Game 1, but we took the next 3 and Alex Frederick emerged. He had not been at all awe-inspiring until this point. We got ACC cellar-dweller Maryland and pummeled them in College Park as we shouldve, then smashed Furman again. Interestingly enough, as our bats livened up, our defense that had been improving, tanked. We pitched better and started getting hits with RISP.
Then went to Winston Salem and shit the bed again against next-to-worst Wake Forest. Again all 3 phases were awful against one of the worst teams in the league. Harman tanked, Weismann was subpar, and the pen cost us in game 3.
Clemson beat PC before hosting FSU at home, and pulling off a complete sweep to win the Atlantic Division. The Tigers looked outstanding in this series against the pudgiest pitchers in college baseball. The Tigers outhit FSU 36-21 and outscored them 25-15. FSU had to win only one game and clearly had no mental edge the entire series. Clemson pitchers shut down the top of the potent FSU lineup, although Harman gave up a few runs because of 3 errors and a few more plays that weren't called as errors.
In the ACC Tournament our pitching fell apart against VT and NC State, both of whom were handled well enough by our starters early in the year. Then, following Danny Hall's pattern, GT fell asleep in the postseason and Will Lamb shut them down. Had we not won this meaningless game against a team that swept us, its possible we would not have beaten Auburn or Alabama.
In the NCAA Tournament the Tigers got a tough matchup in Auburn against the SEC West champs and top-hitting Tigers of Moo U. Our pitching manhandled them, except for Tomas Cruz. This was the outstanding performance of the postseason in my opinion, moreso than beating #1 ASU. Auburn's announcers slit their wrists after the final out. They'll find two more overdramatic nitwits to call games for next season.
Getting Alabama at home instead of heading to GT was a blessing. Danny Hall might've delayed his annual NCAA chokejob until Omaha had he gotten Clemson. The Tide were a very similar team in many ways, except for the defense. Bama's defense in my opinion was the best we saw this year. Clemson pounded their best pitchers and handled their bats in 2 of 3 games, the Game 1 loss coming because of Brad Miller.
The Tigers headed to Omaha and faced the #1 overall seed and got all the breaks and the hits to sink the Sun Devils, who eliminated us last year in the Supers. Against Oklahoma we played well for one half of the game, and Bobby Shore gifted us one inning with 100 straight walks. The game was stopped for lightning and the junk-throwing lefty that they used to quell our bats the night before came out again, and continued to whip us. This is where Clemson's bats went quiet in Omaha. Ray Tanner was watching, and after beating OU to eliminate them, sent out junk-throwing lefty Michael Roth. As is typical of a Leggett squad, the tightly wound Tigers could not produce at the plate with terrible ABs. A botched interference call cost the Tigers dearly in Game 2, though Jack did not make a single wrong move in the game.
It was rated the nation's 5th toughest schedule with 38 games against NCAAT opponents. We started off the season on fire with great pitching and good power at the plate, but the defense was bad from day one. We hit a rough patch against good competition and lost some series that we had no business losing, then righted the ship. This makes me feel that we didnt overacheive as much as people think. We only finished with one more win than 2009.
Things Tim Bourret won't tell you about:
Give Clemson back those 9 games and they are 54-16, and the sweep over UNC gives them the Atlantic Division before even playing FSU. I'm not counting games that we lost because of bad defensive plays that weren't called as errors.
4 Losses to unranked midweek opponents: Western Carolina 7-5, Elon 15-10/4-3, Charlotte 11-10. Coastal Carolina was ranked.
Coastal is forgivable of course, provided we didnt lose because of bad defense (which we did), but we have no business losing to the other 4.
3 series losses to below .500 ACC squads: UNC (14-16), Duke (8-22), Wake Forest (8-22).
This performance against midweek opponents and poor teams points to a lack of mental focus. Notice we lost 4 midweek games because of the defense. Even though the pitching was poor in some, the balls were in play to be made and we did not make the plays. Going to both Duke and WF and losing and losing to FAR worse teams is just pathetic.
I wouldn't call them awesome overachievers after looking at that.
Links From Jack's Postseason Teleconference
What about next year?
Clemson should be very good again next season. Another 45 wins is my current expectation. The schedule is always going to be tougher than most NCAA schools but we bring back the pitching staff for another year of seasoning. We lose our best infielder but I don't think the defense can get much worse than this season. The biggest losses are Kyle Parker and Mike Freeman.
While Parker draws the ire of many for being woefully average at the plate since midseason and worse in the NCAA Tournament, he was crucial in the first part of the season. As far as a clutch hitter I don't know that I'd call him good but he gets on base and we'll miss his power.
Parker got the standing ovation in his last AB against Alabama, but it should've been given to Mike Freeman. Since transferring from UGA he's been a very solid 2B for us and I think we'll miss him more than Parker. He had a cold spell early in the season but after heating up he was a very consistent .330 hitter for us all the way til the end. His glove will be missed even more than his bat, because we turned TONS of double-plays this season.
Harman, Schaus and Hinson were all drafted but low enough that they should return. Many rumblings about Hinson's dissatisfaction at CU abound and he may go pro. That would be bad for us on the infield. Catcher John Nester lost his starting job to Spencer Kieboom and may go Pro as a result. Wilson Boyd is gone from platoon-duty. Only two recruits were drafted: Cole Brand and SS Steve Wilkerson, and Wilkerson may not sign with the Red Sox. If he does not, look for him to compete on the infield in 2011.
Justin Sarratt, Josh Thrailkill, and Tomas Cruz are gone, though I believe Sarratt and Thrailkill have one year of eligibility remaining if they choose. Sarratt was lost to injury early in the season, but I'm hoping he does not return. You couldn't blame them for taking their last year however.
Taking a rough stab at the 2011 lineup, I think you could see Schaus at the 3 or 4 spot, and Miller somewhere at the top but not leading off. Shaffer could conceivably take the 3 spot and you could see Hinson take it or 4/5. Shaffer will have more power numbers next season since he missed a large chunk of our losing streak midseason with the groin injury.
As for the last spot, who knows? It'll be some combo of those last 3 and probably a freshman.
Richie Shaffer played some 3B in HS and could move over from 1st since he's RH, but if Hinson returns then 1st and 3rd are set. 2B and SS are up for grabs. There are several freshmen who did not get much chance on the infield this year and should next year.
Brad Miller is competing in the Team USA trials currently and played on the team at 2B previously, with far fewer errors. One has to think his defense gets better and I hope he moves to 2B so his arm won't get him in as much trouble. If not, and he continues to start on the field, Jack should be shot in the head for blatant stupidity.
Jason Stolz started out the season at 3B before an injury and was worse than Miller. I see him playing somewhere next year on the infield. He is not hot with the glove and his range is less than Miller's, but he has the arm to play on the left-side. I'd start him at SS before I'd run Miller out there for another 20+ error season.
Schaus should come back in LF, with CF and RF open. One could see Epps platooning with Addison Johnson on the All-Century no-hit team, but they'll probably split time in CF next year. Will Lamb could possibly move to RF if not DH'ing, and he is fast enough to play CF but doesnt have the experience with the glove at this level.
Two starters are set in place with Harman and Weismann. Will Lamb is not pitching this summer I hear, which is somewhat worrisome since there is no definite 3rd starter. If he doesnt want it, Leone will probably get the job on Sundays. Scott Firth will probably start out at a midweek spot.
The bullpen brings back everyone who has potential. Frederick will be a Sr., and the rest of the pen was pretty young this year. Brady, Haselden, Kyle, Meyer and Mike Kent will all be back. This should be a better group.
This team should be Super Regional caliber and CWS caliber if some guy step up on the infield and open outfield spots, and the pitching continues to improve. But until Jack wins a CWS and proves me wrong, I won't call for them to be capable of winning it.