Clemson baseball returned to the diamond for fall practice on Friday. This season the Tigers’ roster is riddled with question marks and seeks to replace many key parts.
Last season the Tigers won 42 games and hosted a regional for the second consecutive season. That success came from a solid weekend pitching rotation and a deep offensive lineup.
Clemson has to replace over 400 innings between starters Pat Krall, Alex Eubanks, Tyler Jackson and Charlie Barnes. Over the course of fall ball head coach Monte Lee and pitching coach Andrew See are looking to see which Tiger pitchers will fill those shoes.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions going into the fall, losing four starters” See said. “Close to 500 innings, it’s going to be tough to replace.”
Ryley Gilliam, Jake Higginbotham and Brooks Crawford are three Tiger pitchers who return with starting experience.
Higginbotham redshirted last season due to an injury but in 2016 saw significant work. In 2016, he racked up seven starts with a 4.59 ERA and amassed a 3-0 record.
Crawford was 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 17 relief stints a season ago and has an impressive résumé going into fall practice.
Gilliam was 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA and four saves in 27 relief appearances. After spending the summer with team USA, Gilliam has his eyes on a starting spot this season.
“I’m definitely going to be trying to start this year,” the sophomore pitcher said. “But in the end it’s going to be up to the coaches.”
Clemson does return a lot of pop at the plate this season. The Tigers bring back power hitters in Logan Davidson, Chris Williams and Seth Beer.
Catcher Chris Williams proved himself to be a major catalyst for Clemson last season and was a key to the Tigers’ early season success. His injury in the second half of last season devastated the Tigers, and the team did not seem the same afterwards.
Williams got a call in the 31st round of the 2017 MLB Draft this summer to play for the Tampa Bay Rays. He made the decision to return to Clemson and play his junior season in a Tiger uniform.
“I’m so excited to have Chris back,” Lee said. “Chris is not only a front-line catcher or a middle-of-the-order hitter, having a guy in his third year in the middle of the order who can hit behind Seth and give him protection.”
Shortstop Logan Davidson had an excellent freshman campaign, hitting .286 with 41 RBIs and 12 home runs. He was also a first-team freshman All-American selection.
Davidson is not satisfied with last season and is looking forward to a new year.
“I’m not complaining about last season, but there are definitely a lot of improvements I can make,” the sophomore shortstop said. “Hitting, stealing, bags and in the field there is a lot of things I need to improve on this fall.”