Binghamton @ Clemson
- Friday 2/17- 4:00 PM (Update: 11-3 W)
- Saturday 2/18- 2:00 PM
- Sunday 2/19-12:00 PM
Video: ACC Network Extra (ESPN+)
Audio: WCCP FM 104.9 in the Clemson area and online streaming at ClemsonTigers.com.
Finally, college baseball season is upon us, and for the Tigers, it is a new era. Last season, the Tigers started out to a red hot, 14-0 start, but stumbled for the remainder of the season, finishing with a losing record and missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, the first time the program missed back-to-back tourneys. Back-to-back postseasons at home, paired with lack of postseason success in previous years led to Graham Neff and the athletic department deciding to move in another direction, dismissing Monte Lee. After a nationwide search, the Tigers settled on Erik Bakich as the 29th head coach in Clemson baseball history.
If you are unfamiliar with Bakich, he has a bit of a history with Clemson and Jack Leggett. Bakich was an assistant on Clemson’s 2002 College World Series team under Leggett, and then followed fellow assistant Tim Corbin to Vanderbilt where he helped in the building of one of the nation’s top baseball programs. Bakich then became the head coach at Maryland from 2010-2012, before heading to Michigan, where he helped the Wolverines become the Big Ten’s premier program. In 2019, Bakich’s Wolverines finished as the runner up in the College World Series.
On the field, Clemson has a mix of some youth, some old, and some new. The big piece that the Tigers will miss is third baseman Max Wagner, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles after his 2022 ACC Player of the Year season. Max swung a big bat for the Tigers in 2022, crushing 27 homers. The absence of Wagner means the Tigers will look to Caden Grice bring some pop to this lineup, but hitting is not the only thing Caden will do. In addition to being the Tigers’ starting first baseman (he played most of the season last year in the outfield) Caden had a 2-0 record in seven relief appearances last season, and is expected to shoulder a bigger load after some departures from Clemson’s pitching staff, including Ricky Williams transferring to South Carolina, along with Dylan Brewer and Jonathan French, who all will be joined by Monte Lee as an assistant for the Gamecocks.
Clemson has its own transfers that look to add some flair, although these guys didn’t come from a hated rival. Michigan pitcher Willie Weiss and infielder Reilly Bertram followed Coach Bakich to Tiger Town. Pitching 34 innings during the 2022 season, Weiss had 37 strikeouts while recording a 5.29 ERA. In his career, Weiss is 9-6 on the mound and has posted a 3.67 ERA. Bertram started 62 games last season for Michigan, batting .298 and totaling 40 RBIs on the year.
The Tigers also added B.J. Bailey, a tall, skinny lefty from Spartanburg Methodist College, which has been a pretty nice JUCO feeder for the Tigers over the years.
So, we’ve talked about the Tigers, so let’s take a look at the bad guys for this weekend, the Binghamton Bearcats. Binghamton comes to us from Vestal, New York where they are coach by Tim Sinicki, who is in his 31st season as head coach of the Bearcats. Binghamton won the America East Tournament last year and made the NCAA tournament as a 4th seed in the Stanford regional, where they went 0-2 & barbecue, getting crushed by the number two overall seed Stanford 20-7, and then falling 9-4 on to UC Santa Barbara. They come into 2023 the favorite to repeat as American East champs and they return a good bit of their lineup from last year, including the first seven hitters of last season’s lineup. Last year’s championship team was very young, and the postseason experience should serve them well.
There’s a lot to be excited about with the future of Clemson baseball, and I think fans should have high, but reasonable hopes in year one. This is a program that may need a bit more than an oil change, but certainly is not looking at a complete rebuild. The NCAA tournament should absolutely be the expectation this year with anything else being gravy. But the hats still do say “OMAHA” on them, and no one better than Coach Bakich knows that the College World Series will soon be, and should be, an expectation of this program.