Crawford and Higginbotham will finish out the pitching rotation for Week 1
Twenty minutes before he spoke to the media on Tuesday, left-hand pitcher Jacob Hennessy was told by pitching coach Andrew See that he will get the start for 12th-ranked Clemson when the Tigers open the season on Friday against William & Mary.
“I’m excited and ready to compete on Friday,” Hennessy said.
A sophomore, Hennessey had a 2-1 record last year with three saves and a 3.82 ERA in 26 relief appearances. In 30.2 innings pitched, he allowed 32 hits (.274 opponents’ batting average) and 11 walks with 37 strikeouts. He held lefthanded batters to a .193 batting average.
The rest of the weekend rotation will have Brooks Crawford start Game 2 on Saturday and Jake Higginbotham on Game 3 on Sunday.
“I’m going to be completely honest with you, we really struggled with these decisions because we had six guys to be honest with you that pitched well enough to start,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We have had a hard time scoring. In the past six or seven intersquads, we have had a hard time scoring runs and that is just a testament to Coach See and the pitching staff and how well they have thrown.”
Hennessy said last season really prepared him for Friday’s opportunity because he pitched in some big games and in some big moments. The sophomore said it was an advantage having a year of playing college baseball under his belt.
“It taught me that college is a lot different than high school and that the season is a lot longer,” he said. “Just taking one game at a time and sticking to your routine. You are going to have highs and lows when you throw a lot of innings and that is just baseball.
“You just have to know how to deal with those and bounce back.”
Despite playing well enough that they deserved to start this weekend, Lee said experience did play a factor on why he went with Hennessy, Crawford and Higginbotham for the opening weekend series. Lee also said throwing a lefty, righty (Crawford) and lefty played a role in his decision as well.
“To go left, right, left, it gives the opponent a different look every day,” the Clemson coach said. “They are all very different. Even Hennessy to Higginbotham is totally different left-handers. It forces you as a manager to have to flip the lineup a little bit and think about how you want to construct your lineup. It makes it a little bit more challenging on the coaches’ end, but all three of them have thrown the ball really well and I’m excited to see how they do this opening weekend.”
As for Hennessy getting the ball on Friday, Lee says the sophomore has worked on his changeup and is why he is now a starter.
“We love his dependability out of the bullpen and he was mostly a fastball, slider guy out of the bullpen last year, but the progress of the changeup is why he is starting,” Lee said. “His changeup right now, the last two starts, it is Charlie Barnes like. It has been as good of a pitch where hitters know it is coming and they’re swinging threw it.
“It is a little bit more of straight change than Charlie’s is, but it is a really good pitch and is extremely effective.”