The 2012 Clemson baseball team starts practice on Friday. TheClemsonInsider.com takes a look at four questions that face the Tigers as they begin another season they hope ends with a trip to Omaha.
1. Searching for Offense
One of the biggest questions heading into the season is where will the Tigers find some offense. Four of the Tigers top five hitters based on average are gone from the 2011 team. Where will the Tigers replace the offense lost by the departures of Brad Miller, Will Lamb, John Hinson and Jeff Schaus. How will the Tigers replace the power lost by the departure of Chris Epps who was second on the team last year with 10 home runs.
Richie Shaffer who led the Tigers with 13 home runs returns and Phil Pohl brings his .333 average back for the Tigers. Spencer Kieboom who was one of the Tiger’s best hitters early last season is also back.
The Tigers will look to Dominic Attanasio, Mike Dunster and Jon McGibbon to provide some of the offensive spark in 2012. With a strong pitching staff returning the Tigers may not need to win more low scoring games in 2012. If the offense can develop to compliment the pitching staff the Tigers will be a strong team by the end of the season.
2. Defense, Defense, Defense
Clemson will replace the entire outfield and half of the infield from last the 2011 team. Jeff Schaus, Will Lamb and Chris Epps are all gone from the outfield. Dominic Attanasio started 10 games last season and will likely fill one of the positions in the field. Jon McGibbon started 11 and could also find himself starting in the outfield if Phil Pohl is moved to first to get his bat in the lineup. Because of the need for offense the staff will look for a few others that can play strong defense in the field, but also provide some offense.
In the infield Brad Miller is gone from shortstop and John Hinson is gone from third. Richie Shaffer may make the move from first to third with Phil Pohl and Jon McGibbon sharing time at first. Jason Stolz who started all 63 games last season is back at second, but could also play short. Steve Wilkerson started 12 games last season and Mike Dunster will get strong looks.
If the 2012 Tigers can find some defense to go along with the impressive pitching staff good things could be ahead.
3. Will Brady Dominate Again?
Early in 2011 Kevin Brady was one of the most dominant pitchers in the nation. Brady, who only had three starts in 2011, returned late in the season but never regained the dominance he showed early in the season.
If Kevin can stay healthy and throw like he did early in 2011 the Tigers will have a strong ace.
4. Who is the Closer?
After starting the 2011 season in the starting rotation Scott Weismann moved to the pen and became the Tigers closer. Weismann appeared in 24 games and had a team leading seven saves. Alex Frederick is also gone and was tied for second on the team with three saves.
David Haselden has been a strong closer for the Tigers in the past but could find himself in the starting rotation or in the long relief role again this season.
Sophomore Matt Campbell came on strong last season and finished the season with two saves. Campbell could move into the closer role in 2012. Joseph Moorefield also pitched well down the stretch and could compete for the closer role.
As the Tigers search for offense in 2012 finding a closer to allow Clemson to win the low scoring games will be critical.