By Will Vandervort
No one hated losing to Liberty Sunday in the Columbia Regional more than Jack Leggett. It’s not what he nor his coaches and players envisioned. Like all Clemson teams, the 2013 Tigers had one goal – Omaha or bust.
“If you have any competitive juices in your body, you always remember (the losses),” Leggett said. “I have a lot of competitive kids on our team and a lot of guys that have a lot of pride in everything they do every day.
“I have a lot of good coaches surrounding me and myself that have a lot of pride in what we do and work extremely hard in what we do. We care about what we do and we are passionate about what we do. You never forget these feelings. You never forget how it feels to lose a ball game or how the season ends.”
But 2013 was not a failure, even if it did end with a loss to Liberty.
“It is always a motivating factor because nobody wants to feel like this, especially when it is your life and it’s what you do,” Leggett said. “That’s what is in your DNA, your make up and what you think about every single day of your life.
“These kids care. They have a lot invested. If you could follow them or any team that plays at this level and see what these kids do as far as going to class and how much time they put in the weight room and on the field… They all have a lot invested and they all want to win the last ball game of the year. (The loss to Liberty) will be something everybody will remember and will be something everyone turns into a positive.”
There are plenty of positives to draw from 2013. The Tigers won 40 games, had winning streaks of 11 and 9 games and went into the last week of the regular season with an opportunity to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Unfortunately for Clemson, that’s when the good times came to an end.
“I’m not going to sit here and dwell on the negative,” Leggett said. “We played some very tough games and had been in some tough games lately. I’m not inclined to talk about that all that much. I like to think about the whole body of work and what we have ahead of us and where we are going from here.”
The Tigers closed the year losing seven of their last eight games, including the two to Liberty at Carolina Stadium in Columbia this past weekend. It was a hard pill to swallow, but at least they know why they had to take the pill in the first place.
It’s no secret Clemson struggled down the stretch to move runners over and to bring them home.
“Getting big hits in big situations is why they pay the RBI guys in the Big Leagues all that money,” Leggett said. “Those are the guys that can do it for you. They can relax and take care of your business.”
In the last eight games, the Tigers struggled mightily with runners in scoring position and were a measly 1-for-14 in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Liberty.
“You just need players to step up. It’s as simple as that,” Leggett said. “I think we have some really good players. We just have to get a little bit better. A little more seasoned and a little more experienced. We work on (situational hitting) every single day. We know what we are supposed to do.”
Clemson also struggled to hit home runs as it lacked power all year. The Tigers had only 22 home runs in 2013. Both are issues that are being addressed with the current recruiting class. Chris Okey, a catcher from Mt. Dora, Fla., could help there as could a few other top prospects the Tigers are hoping to sign this year.
“I feel really good about what we have coming in and what we have coming back,” Leggett said.
If the Tigers land Okey—his decision will depend on where he is drafted—as well as bring in talented players such as Weston Wilson and Eli White, then the issues of this past season should be addressed. Clemson is expecting to return seven of its nine starters from the Columbia Regional in its lineup next year and that did not included Jon McGibbon, who did not play in the regional because of a hamstring injury.
There is also a chance second baseman Steve Wilkerson could return depending on where he falls in this weekend’s amateur draft.
TCI’s Projected lineup for the 2014 season
Position player Avg. HRs RBIs
C Garrett Boulware .308 8 45
1B Jon McGibbon .285 0 37
2B Steve Wilkerson .291 4 37
SS Tyler Krieger .257 0 27
3B Shane Kennedy .317 4 35
LF Tyler Slaton .263 0 13
CF Maleeke Gibson .227 0 16
RF Steven Duggar .300 2 30
DH Mike Triller .333 0 7
Pitching’s Weekend rotation
Player 2013 record ERA
Daniel Gossett 10-4 2.56
Matthew Crownover 5-2 3.45
Kevin Pohle medical redshirt in 2013