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Clemson Baseball Preview: Pittsburgh

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Pittsburgh v Rutgers

Who: #7 Clemson (40-13, 19-8) vs. Pittsburgh (27-22, 11-16)
Where: Charles L. Cost Field Pittsburgh, PA
When: Thursday (6pm), Friday (3pm), Saturday (1pm)
Video: ACC Network Extra (Jeff Hatthorn, Josh Rowntree)
Audio: Clemsontigers.com

Starting Pitchers: Thursday (RHP Spencer Strider vs. RHP Dan Hammer), Friday (RHP Brooks Crawford vs. RHP Matt Pidich), Saturday (LHP Jake Higginbotham vs. TBA)

The Clemson Tigers and Pittsburgh Panthers hit the field to square off for the first time since 2016. Pittsburgh is led by 21st year head coach Joe Jordano. Pittsburgh was swept by Louisville this past weekend and is hanging on to one of the last spots for an ACC tournament berth.

Offensively the Panthers are hitting .240 (last in the ACC) as a team. 2B Liam Sabine is the one guy Clemson has to be careful around this weekend. Hitting .299 with 15HR (2nd to only Beer) 43 RBI and 18 SB’s. His .626 Slugging Pct. leads the ACC. After that it’s CF Frank Maldonado (.295 5HR 35 RBI) and DH Ron Washington Jr. (.282 5HR 29 RBI). These three players account for 31 of Pitts 35 Homers. They’re also the only three in their lineup hitting .250 or better. Keep these three in check and Clemson pitching can have a very good weekend.

The pitching is led by Saturdays starter Matt Pidich (2.74 ERA) who has 88K in 82IP with only 23BB. Chase Smith (3.10 ERA) and closer Yasin Chentouf (3.25 ERA) are the lead guys in the bullpen. The wild card this weekend is RJ Freure (4.22ERA) who has 87K in only 53 13 but 30BB to go along with it. His 14.68 K per 9 is 2nd in the country. Freure has started before and with no starter announced for Saturdays finale it’s something to watch out for.

This weekend is big for both clubs as Clemson comes in holding on to 1st in the Atlantic division by 1 game over NC state and are tied with North Carolina for the ACC regular season crown. Both teams hold the tie breaker over Clemson. Pittsburgh is currently 10th in the ACC hanging on to one of the final spots for next weeks ACC tourney. Both will be watching the North Carolina/Virginia Tech series with intent. Pitt needs one win or a Virginia Tech loss to clinch a spot in the ACC Tourney and as mentioned above Clemson and North Carolina are battling for the regular season title.

One big thing of note is freshman Spencer Strider will start on Friday in place of Jacob Hennessey. Hennessey velocity dropped to 81-83 mph in his last start. There doesn't seem to be any injury, just fatigue and Monte Lee wants to save him for postseason play.

Don’t expect this to be an easy series. The weather is suppose to be bad and Pitt has a couple of pitchers who can strike guys out, something Clemson batters do a lot. Clemson needs Strider to step up on Thursday and no disappearances from the offense this weekend.

Prediction: Clemson wins 2 of 3. Wins the Atlantic and gets the 2 seed for the ACC Tournament.