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Barnes excited for opening-day assignment, even with a new catcher

Charlie Barnes is grateful that for a second straight year head coach Monte Lee and pitching coach Andrew See think enough of him to let him have the baseball when No. 15 Clemson takes the field for the first time this year.

The Tigers will begin the 2017 season on Friday against Wright State in Game 1 of their three-game series at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. Barnes, who was the only Clemson pitcher last season to start on every weekend, says isn’t feeling the nervousness this time around like he did when he got the start in the season opener last season.

“There was actually some more nervousness last year because it was not just starting on opening day, but it was my first weekend start,” the junior said. “This year, I am a lot more comfortable. I’m really excited. I’m just ready to get it going.”

In other words, Barnes’ 19th career start is an old hat.

“I would not say it is an old hat,” he said. “I get the same excitement for every game no matter when it is. I’m just a lot more comfortable. It is not new to me. I have done it. I did this 15 or 16 times last year. I’m just a lot more comfortable, I guess you can say.”

It will be a little different for Barnes and the Tigers when he throws their first pitch at 4 p.m. on Friday. Clemson was already going to have a new catcher with Chris Williams, who mostly played first base last year, replacing All-American Chris Okey.

However, now Williams is out with an injured wrist, meaning Clemson will start either junior Robert Jolly or freshman Kylie Wilkie behind the plate.

“Obviously, I worked with Chris a ton, but I worked with Jolly and Wilkie, too,” Barnes said. “I have a good bond with them, and (the coaches) do a good job making sure every catcher catches every guy, even if it is not in a game.

“They catch in practice. They catch in the bullpen. They know what I’m going to bring and I know what they are going to bring. I’m just excited about getting it started. I have sat down with both of them and told them kind of what to expect so I think they are ready to step up and kind of make a jump and help this team out.”

Barnes said he will not change his approach when he gets on the mound on Friday afternoon.

“They know what is expected of them,” he said. “They are expected to be Chris Williams. They are the guy. I will not change anything. I have one hundred percent confidence in whoever they put back there. I believe in them. I trust them.”

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