2016 was an unexpected season for Clemson baseball. The Jack Leggett era ended in an unfortunate way, and despite the arrival of coach Monte Lee there weren’t a lot of expectations. Hopefully Clemson could make the NCAA Tournament, and maybe if they were lucky they could get out of the Regional.
Instead Clemson looked like the team fans demand. The Tigers won yet another ACC Championship and then received a national seed. Unfortunately Clemson ran into a red hot Oklahoma State team and the Tigers were found wanting. Despite all of the progress the team made last year the end result was the same as the past few seasons, an early postseason exit.
2017 will be interesting. Once again fans have begun to believe in this team. Though there are certainly holes in the roster, the feeling is that the Tigers should once again contend in the ACC and hosting a Regional is not out of the question. The hard part to foresee is just how far Clemson can go in the NCAA Tournament. Thankfully most of last year’s roster returns
A majority of position players are back for Clemson and the pitching staff will see enough experience with 75% of last years starts returning. Even the media is buying in to this team. The Tigers are ranked in the top 15 of most major preseason polls.
The schedule does Clemson no favors. The back end of the schedule sees Clemson facing Louisville and NC State to end the season while the rest of the schedule contains tough opponents like Virginia, FSU, UNC, and South Carolina. As always the key is going to be to dominate the weekday games and win the out of conference series. The biggest change from 2015 to 2016 was how much better Clemson was in midweek games, there were no inexplicable losses to UGA or Wofford. That must continue.
I expect year 2 under Monte Lee to show a continuation of the progress the program made last season. My big concerns are in the infield because of the youth and inexperience that we'll be relying on. Seth Bee should continue to be explosive offensively, but I'll be interested to see how his move to first base goes. He played the position in high school but didn't play there at all last season. Clemson committed 99 errors last season, so there's a lot of room to improve there. Given that Clemson committed all those errors yet still won the ACC tournament and earned a national seed in the NCAA tournament, that if the team can even slightly improve on errors, then this team could be scary. My expectations are to host a Regional and advance to the Super Regional. Making Omaha would be amazing and definitely a possibility, but we'll have to see how the team progresses over the season. As far as winning the ACC Tournament again this year, that's also a possibility but that tournament can be so crazy that it's hard to make a judgement on it this early. It'll depend on how healthy the Tigers are and how well they are playing going in to it. Overall, should be a great season and I'm looking forward to getting it started on Friday.
I may sound like a bit of a sunshine pumper here but I expect to see further growth from the baseball program this season and for this to be another great season for Monte Lee and Co. Coach Lee got the most out of a mostly inexperienced squad last year and with the return of key position players such as Seth Beer, Chase Pinder, and Reed Rohlman I see the potential for more this year. The addition of freshman Logan Davidson as the new starting shortstop for the Tigers is a spot I’ll be paying attention to throughout the year. Davidson has the potential to be a special player for the Tigers and if he can play up to his potential in this year the Tigers could have one of college baseball's more deadly 1-2 duos in the starting lineup in Seth Beer and Logan Davidson.
Last year’s pitching staff was the Achilles’ heel for the Tigers despite winning the ACC Championship but the Tigers return a more experienced and deeper pitching staff this year. My main concerns are the tough road series at FSU, UNC, NC State, and GT as well as the catching situation while Chris Williams is on the shelf. Seeing how Robert Jolly and/or Kyle Wilkie fare in catching duties while Williams recovers from injury will be a big impact on how the team performs during the early part of the season and will also show a big glimpse into the future of the catching position for Clemson Baseball.