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By Trey McCurry.

Clemson (0-0), ranked as high as #16 in the nation, will open 2012 when it hosts UAB (0-0) this weekend in a three-game series at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Game times are 4:00 PM on Friday, 1:00 PM on Saturday, and 1:00 PM on Sunday.

The Series

Clemson and UAB have never met on the diamond. The last time the Tigers faced a C-USA opponent was the 2010 Auburn Regional when they defeated Southern Miss 10-1 in the opening game of the regional. Clemson’s last series against a C-USA team was in 2008 when it swept a series at Central Florida.

The Blazers

UAB, led by seventh-year Head Coach Brian Shoop, is a member of Conference USA. The Blazers are coming off a 29-28 season, including a 9-15 record in C-USA. They were picked by C-USA coaches to finish eighth in the league in 2012. Last season, UAB went 7-13 against 2011 NCAA Tournament teams. The Blazers recorded home wins over SEC teams Alabama and Mississippi State, while also posting two wins each over East Carolina and Rice at home (as well as defeated Rice in the C-USA Tournament).

UAB returns 16 lettermen from a year ago, among the returners are six position starters (along with eight other position players). Junior outfielder Ryan Ussery is the squad’s top returning hitter. Last season, he hit .301 with seven doubles, a triple, three homers and 16 RBI. Senior utility player Patrick Palmeiro, the son of former MLB star Rafael Palmeiro, returns as the team’s top power player after leading the Blazers last year in doubles (16), homers (8), and RBI (43). Senior infielder Keith DePew and senior outfielder Coy Arrowood are the team’s top returning base stealers, with five steals each in 2011.

The Blazers pitching staff returns 13 of their 18 pitchers from 2011 and is led by senior righthander Dillon Napoleon, a Preseason All-Conference USA selection. Last season Napolean was 5-3 in 13 starts with a 2.87 ERA over 84.2 innings pitched. Two other top pitchers for UAB last season were now-sophomore right Chase Mallard (1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in 13 appearances) and junior righty Ben Bullard (5-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 19 appearances). Napoleon and Bullard are the team’s top returning wins leaders, while Napoleon is the top returning strikeout guy (56). Senior righthander Ryan Nance returns as the team’s closer after leading the Blazers in appearances (21) and saves (8) last season.

 

The Tigers

Clemson enters the season-opening weekend ranked as high as #16 in the nation (Baseball America). The Tigers are also ranked #23 (ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll) and #25 (Collegiate Baseball). Clemson is coming off a 43-20 season in 2011 where they hosted the Clemson (SC) Regional and finished second in the ACC Atlantic with a 17-13 finish. The Tigers were picked to win the Atlantic Division for the second consecutive season by the league’s coaches in the 2012 preseason poll. Clemson returns 20 lettermen from 2011, including four starting position players and three starting pitchers.

The Tigers top returning hitter is senior utility player Phil Pohl. Pohl hit .333 last season while leading the team in doubles (22) and hit-by-pitches (8). Clemson’s top returning power hitter is Baseball America’s preseason ACC Player-of-the-Year Richie Shaffer. Shaffer, who moves to third base after playing first base his first two seasons, is the Tigers top returner in triples (2), homers (13), runs (62), and walks (44). Senior infielder Jason Stolz, along with Shaffer, is the team’s top returner in games (63) and stolen bases (8). Stolz also led the 2011 Tigers with 10 sacrifice hits, while junior catcher Spencer Kieboom is the top returner in sac flies (7).

Clemson’s pitching staff returns a strong nucleus from 2011, led by redshirt junior Kevin Brady. The righty started last season strong before missing the majority of the season with an elbow injury. In his limited action, he allowed only one walk against 33 strikeouts and is expected to be the staff ace in 2012. Junior righty Dominic Leone also returns after posting a 6-2 record in 15 appearances (13 starts) in 2012 and gives the Tigers a strong second starter as well. Among the other top returners are senior righty David Haselden (6-1, 2.23 ERA) and junior righty Jonathan Meyer (5-2, 3.31 ERA).

 

Projected Starting Lineups

UAB

C        #36 Harry Clark (JR/.256 BA with 4 2Bs and 12 RBI in 47 games in 2011)

1B      #23 John Frost (JR/.246 BA with 6 2Bs, 3 HRs, and 40 RBI in 56 games in 2011)

2B      #20 Michael Busby (SR/.174 BA with 2 2Bs and 7 RBI in 23 games in 2011)

SS      #3 Keith DePew (SR/.276 BA with 6 2Bs, 1 HR, and 25 RBI in 57 games in 2011)

3B      #28 Patrick Palmeiro (SR/.284 BA with 16 2Bs, 8 HRs, and 43 RBI in 57 games in 2011)

LF      #25 Ivan De Jesus (SO/.221 BA with 3 2Bs and 8 RBI in 39 games in 2011)

CF      #34 Coy Arrowood (SR/.309 BA with 4 2Bs and 9 RBI in 41 games in 2011)

RF      #19 Ryan Ussery (JR/.301 BA with 7 2Bs, 3 HRs, and 16 RBI in 46 games in 2011)

DH     #12 Jacob German (JR/.229 BA with 3 2Bs and 16 RBI in 35 games in 2011)

 

Clemson

C        #22 Spencer Kieboom (JR/.282 BA with 10 2Bs, 1 HR, and 31 RBI in 53 games in 2011)

1B      #12 Jon McGibbon (SO/.339 BA with 4 2Bs, 1 HR, and 14 RBI in 43 games in 2011)

2B      #13 Jay Baum (FR/first season in college)

SS      #2 Jason Stolz (SR/.285 BA with 10 2Bs, 1 HR, and 27 RBI in 63 games in 2011)

3B      #8 Richie Shaffer (JR/.315 BA with 15 2Bs, 13 HRs, and 55 RBI in 63 games in 2011)

LF      #1 Dominic Attanasio (SO/.367 BA with 2 2Bs, 1 HR, and 11 RBI in 33 games in 2011)

CF      #4 Thomas Brittle (*JR/.273 BA with 3 2Bs, 2 HRs, and 12 RBI in two seasons at CofC)

RF      #18 Tyler Slaton (FR/first season in college)

DH     #9 Phil Pohl (SR/.333 BA with 22 2Bs, 4 HRs, and 33 RBI in 60 games in 2011)

 

Projected Starting Pitchers

In game one, UAB will start senior righthander Dillon Napoleon. The Winnetka, IL native had a 5-3 record and 2.87 ERA in 13 starts for a total of 84.2 innings pitched in 2011. He allowed 70 hits (.230 opponents’ batting average) and 26 walks against 56 strikeouts.

Clemson will counter with redshirt junior righthander Kevin Brady. The Gaithersburg, MD native had a 2-0 record and 3.86 ERA in 10 appearances (three starts) for a total of 23.1 innings pitched in 2011, when he missed the majority of the year with an injury. He allowed 19 hits (.218 opponents’ batting average) and only one walk against 33 strikeouts.

In game two, the Blazers will start junior righthander Ben Bullard. The Decatur, AL native had a 5-1 record and 3.42 ERA in 19 appearances (two starts) for a total of 55.1 innings pitched in 2011. He allowed 54 hits (.269 opponent’s batting average) and 26 walks against 43 strikeouts.

The Tigers will counter with junior righthander Dominic Leone. The Norwich, CT native had a 6-2 record and 3.70 ERA in 15 appearances (12 starts) for a total of 65.2 innings pitched in 2011. He allowed 53 hits (.219 opponents’ batting average) and 30 walks against 72 strikeouts.

In game three, UAB’s starter is still to be determined.

Clemson will counter with senior righthander David Haselden. The Spartanburg, SC native had a 6-1 record and 2.23 ERA in 25 appearances (four starts) for a total of 76.2 innings pitched in 2011. He allowed 65 hits (.236 opponents’ batting average) and 14 walks against 49 strikeouts.

 

Worth Noting

  • Clemson is 6-3 all-time on February 17 with a 3-2 mark at home. The Tigers are 9-1 all-time on February 18 with an 5-1 mark at home. Clemson is 7-3 all-time on February 19 with 5-1 mark at home.
  • The Tigers are 38-17 all-time against current members of C-USA, including a 27-6 mark at home.
  • Clemson will play 15 of its first 18 games at home.
  • The Tigers will play 50 of its 56 games in the Carolinas and Georgia.
  • Clemson plays 27 of its 56 games against teams that participated in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

 

2012 Clemson Captains

Four Tigers were voted team captains in 2012. This year’s co-captains are junior righthander Dominic Leone, senior utility player Phil Pohl, junior infielder Richie Shaffer, and senior infielder Jason Stolz. Pohl was a co-caption in 2011 as well.

 

Leggett in Season Openers at Clemson

Clemson is 14-4 in season openers under Head Coach Jack Leggett. The Tigers are 19-4 under Leggett on opening day. Clemson is playing it’s seventh straight opener at home and are 11-2 in home season openers under Leggett (15-2 on opening day). The Tigers are also 0-1 on the road in openers (1-1 on opening day) and 3-1 in neutral site openers (3-1 on opening day) under Leggett.

 

Leggett in Season Openers at Clemson

Season

Date

Site

W-L

Score

Opponent

1994

2/12

Clemson

W

W

3-1

4-1

Western Carolina

Western Carolina

1995

2/17

Arlington, TX

L

2-5

Oklahoma State

1996

2/16

Clemson

W

4-0

South Florida

1997

2/15

Clemson

W

W

6-2

9-1

Morehead State

Morehead State

1998

2/6

Kissimmee, FL

W

4-2

South Florida

1999

2/2

Clemson

W

10-7

Kansas State

2000

1/28

Lake Buena Vista, FL

W

3-1

Rice

2001

2/16

Clemson

L

5-10

Richmond

2002

2/22

Clemson

W

7-4

Auburn

2003

2/22

Auburn, AL

L

W

1-8

11-8

Auburn

Auburn

2004

2/24

Clemson

L

4-5

Charlotte

2005

2/18

Myrtle Beach, SC

W

7-2

West Virginia

2006

2/17

Clemson

W

W

8-1

3-0

James Madison

James Madison

2007

2/16

Clemson

W

14-0

George Mason

2008

2/23

Clemson

W

W

12-5

6-5

Mercer

Mercer

2009

2/20

Clemson

W

8-3

Charlotte

2010

2/19

Clemson

W

11-0

Miami (OH)

2011

2/18

Clemson

W

14-3

Eastern Michigan

 

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