Coming off a midweek victory over Furman, Clemson baseball hits ACC play with a tough challenge in front of them. The Tigers (9-3) will open up the conference slate at home this weekend versus No. 3 North Carolina (12-1).
Clemson comes into the matchup after a tough weekend, losing the annual series with rival South Carolina for the first time in Monte Lee’s four-year stint with the Tigers. Clemson responded on Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory over the Paladins, but the Tigers offensive struggles in the early going has some fans concerned about this year's team.
Through the first 12 games, Clemson has managed to put up 85 runs (7 per game average) compared to its opponents’ mark of 56, but the Tigers have struck out 108 times. The Tigers have five players who have already hit the double-digit strikeout mark. Clemson has also left 81 runners on base compared to 74 total from opponents. The biggest problem so far has been swing selection for the Tiger batters. Many of Clemson’s strikeouts have come looking, something that Lee is most likely addressing in practices each day.
Taking a look at this weekend’s series, it appears North Carolina has the upper hand. The Tar Heels pitching staff has been phenomenal this season, combining for a team ERA of 2.59 and 144 strikeouts on the young season. The starting rotation has seen significant numbers from RHP Gianluca Dalatri, who has posted an ERA of 1.06 and allowed just 10 hits, five runs, and three walks, all while striking out 17 batters in 17 innings of work. Out of the bullpen, RHP Austin Love has been stellar for the Heels, accumulating an ERA of 0.00 and allowing just seven hits while striking out 13 batters over the course of his 11 innings worked so far this year.
Offensively, North Carolina has some big bats in its lineup. Through its first 13 games, the trio of middle-infielder Ike Freeman, first baseman Michael Busch, and outfielder Dylan Harris have combined for 43 hits, 32 RBIs, and 48 runs scored, and have piled up over half of the team’s home runs in the early season. Clemson pitchers will have to be on the top of their game when facing these batters who have the potential to do big damage on the scoreboard.
This series will loom big for Clemson. The difference maker for the Tigers will be how long the starting pitcher can go each game, and whether or not Clemson can string together timely hits that lead to runs. The Tigers will also need to put the ball in play more and cut down on the strikeouts, which will not be easy against a Tar Heel pitching rotation that has been incredibly good at getting strikeouts thus far.
The pitching rotation for Clemson has changed a bit this weekend, with Saturday starter Davis Sharpe getting bumped up to the Friday night slot. Mat Clark comes out of the bullpen to start on Saturday, and midweek starter Keyshawn Askew has moved into the Sunday role.
Official information for the weekend series can be found below.
No. 3 North Carolina (12-1) @ No. 20 Clemson (9-3)
- Saturday (Game 1 of Doubleheader) – 1 p.m.
- Saturday (Game 2 of Doubleheader) – Approximately 60 minutes after game 1 of the doubleheader concludes
- Sunday – 1 p.m.
All three games will be broadcasted by the ACC Network Extra
- Game 1 - RHP Gianluca Dalatri (UNC) vs. RHP Davis Sharpe (Clemson)
- Game 2- RHP Tyler Baum (UNC) vs. LHP Mat Clark (Clemson)
- Game 3 - RHP Austin Bergner (UNC) vs. LHP Keyshawn Askew (Clemson)