By Trey McCurry.
Last season, Dom Leone came on as a freshman and settled in as on of Clemson’s reliable pitchers in 2010. Over the course of the season, he made 22 total appearances (10 starts). In 58.1 innings pitched, Leone was 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA.
In his first career start, Leone faced North Carolina and was stellar over 8.0 innings pitched. After allowing the first three Tar Heel batters to score, Leone settled down and did not allow another run. In fact, after a leadoff single in the third inning, he allowed just one hit over his last 6.0 innings.
Leone recently sat down with TheClemsonInsider to discuss last season and what lies ahead in 2011 for the Clemson baseball team.
“Last season was certainly something special. As a team, we bonded unlike any team I’ve ever been on before and that really helped us on the field. That type of team chemistry really guided us to our goal of Omaha last season. At times we were struggling, however we showed the strength and confidence to overcome the diversity. For me personally, last year was definitely a learning experience. Everyday at practice and during games I learned so much from both actual on-field experience and the tips and advice passed along to me from my older teammates. I was given the chance to prove myself on the D1 state and was fortunate enough to get some big opportunities and I can’t thank the coaching staff enough. Looking back, last season was something truly special and something I hope we as a team can repeat ever year that I am here.”
As mentioned earlier, Leone was inserted into the weekend rotation in late April and discussed that and how it felt to be a weekend start in the ACC as a freshman. “Being part of the Clemson weekend rotation was truly an honor. I know how prestigious this program is and for me to be given an opportunity to start on the weekends against quality ACC opponents was truly special.”
Looking back, Leone said sweeping Florida State was his favorite memory from the regular season while the College World Series-clinching win was also a favorite memory. In that game, Leone was called on to start and allowed just three hits and one unearned run over 5.2 innings pitched while earning the win in Clemson’s 8-6 win.
While Omaha is a special trip for any college player, last year was extra special for Clemson and especially Leone. “Omaha was one of the best experiences of my life. I have always dreamed of going and playing there. What made it even better was the fact that it was the last CWS at Rosenblatt. As soon as we arrived at the field the first day I felt the presence of great players such as Nomar, and Barry Bonds. I thought to myself, these guys played here on this same grass, and now I (a young freshman from a small town in CT) is getting the chance to step foot on the same field…a field of college greatness. I will forever remember that experience because it was truly a dream come true.”
This summer Leone chose to go home to Connecticut and rest during the summer instead of playing for the Northshore Navigators of the NECBL. While continuing to lift and work on throwing drills, he rested his arm and did not pitch competitively.
With the fall workout season just concluding, Leone looked back over the fall and what lies ahead in 2011. “The fall went well for me. It was a whole new learning experience with some new drills being taught. It was nice to have a year of experience under my belt, and therefore I could help the freshman out this fall.”
“I expect our team to pick up right where we left off last season. We are still a very good team despite losing key guys like Casey Harman, Mike Freeman, and Kyle Parker. We have a lot of depth both in the field and on the mound, and our new freshman have come in and done a very good job in the fall. As for me, I set my bar very high for myself. I hope to earn a spot back in that weekend rotation, and I also want to be a guy that this team can rely on in a tough situation. Overall, my expectations are high for this team and myself; however, I think we have what it takes to get the job done this year.”
With Leone and the many other talented arms the Tigers have, it is hard not to imagine Clemson competing for yet another trip to Omaha and the College World Series.