The Clemson baseball team has kicked off the 2019 campaign with some impressive victories as the Tigers near the close of the opening month of the regular season.
Through the first 14 games, Clemson sits at 11-3 following a series win over No. 3 North Carolina this past weekend. Monte Lee seems to have his team in position to make another ACC and NCAA run in his fourth season at the helm.
The season kicked off in mid-February as the Tigers hosted South Alabama in a three-game set, winning games one and two before dropping the series finale in game three. From there, Clemson picked up a narrow midweek victory over Charlotte before sweeping Virginia Military Institution the following weekend. After battling rain for much of the week, the Tigers dominated midweek opponent East Tennessee State at home, setting up a big showdown with South Carolina to open the month of March.
Clemson started the rivalry series strong, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in game one at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. However, the Gamecock offense would respond with five runs later in the game, and the Tigers could not overcome the deficit, falling 5-4 in game one. Game two headed to Greenville’s Fluor Field, and the Clemson offense had itself a field day, scoring 11 runs to knockoff South Carolina and even the series 1-1. The final game shifted to Columbia, and after the Tigers took an early lead in that game as well, the Gamecocks would turn on the heat offensively and run away with the series, claiming a 14-3 victory and ending the Tigers’ four-year winning streak in the rivalry.
Clemson returned to Fluor Field this past Tuesday to face off with in-state foe Furman, defeating the Paladins 3-1. The Tigers returned home this weekend to open ACC play versus No. 3 North Carolina, picking up the series win on a wild Saturday afternoon doubleheader. After trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth in game one, Clemson strung together a few hits and tied the game on Kier Meredith’s RBI single. During the next at-bat, the Tar Heel pitcher attempted to pickoff the runner at third base, but in the process committed a balk, allowing the winning run to come home and clinch the game for the Tigers. In game two, the Clemson offense caught fire, scoring 16 runs in the first five innings en route to a 17-3 series-clinching victory. The Tigers will wrap up the series against North Carolina on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Clemson has been led offensively by outfielder Sam Hall and shortstop Logan Davidson. Hall and Davidson have combined for 31 hits, 29 RBI’s, and 31 runs scored, along with seven of the team’s 23 home runs so far this season. Hall currently leads the team in runs scored (19), hits (18), doubles (5), RBI’s (15) and stolen bases (9). Infielder Grayson Byrd is also having a terrific start to the season offensively, collecting 16 hits, 14 RBI’s, 11 runs scored and a pair of home runs himself.
The pitching rotation for the Tigers has been on a bit of a rollercoaster to start the season. The opening weekend rotation of Brooks Crawford, Davis Sharpe and Justin Wrobleski carried Clemson up until this previous weekend’s series with North Carolina, where Sharpe moved into the game one slot while Mat Clark came out of the bullpen to start for the Tigers in game two.
Freshman Keyshawn Askew moved from the midweek start to the Sunday start after his dominant performances in Clemson’s early midweek games. Sharpe has been the big performer for the Tigers on the mound through the first month, appearing in four games and picking up a 2-0 record. The freshman has earned an ERA of 2.18, only giving up 13 hits and five runs over his 20.2 innings of work. Sharpe also leads the team in strikeouts with 30. Clemson’s seen good work from Clark as well, who has an ERA of 2.40 and a 3-0 record. Clark has only given up 10 hits and five runs himself in 15.0 innings on the mound, racking up 18 strikeouts in the process. As a whole, the Tiger pitching staff has combined for an ERA of 3.89 and has struck out 157 batters over the first 14 games.
Clemson will need to continue to stay hot as it enters deeper into conference play. Picking up a series win over North Carolina will certainly boost the Tigers’ postseason resume and strengthen their record. Clemson will wrap up its series with the Tar Heels on Sunday before hosting No. 16 Coastal Carolina on Wednesday evening. The Tigers will return to conference play at home versus Notre Dame for a three-game set beginning on Friday.
Here’s a look at the Tigers’ results from the first 14 games:
Game 1 - Clemson 6, South Alabama 2
Game 2 - Clemson 7, South Alabama 2
Game 3 - Clemson 3, South Alabama 4
Game 4 - Clemson 7, Charlotte 6
Game 5 - Clemson 8, VMI 6
Game 6 - Clemson 8, VMI 2
Game 7 - Clemson 11, VMI 6
Game 8 - Clemson 14, East Tennessee State 3
Game 9 - Clemson 4, South Carolina 5
Game 10 - Clemson 11, South Carolina 5
Game 11 - Clemson 3, South Carolina 14
Game 12 - Clemson 3, Furman 1
Game 13 - Clemson 3, North Carolina 2
Game 14 - Clemson 17, North Carolina 3