GREENVILLE, S.C. — Clemson wrapped up fall baseball practice in chilly conditions in front of a few hundred fans at Fluor Field in Downtown Greenville on Sunday afternoon.
The Orange squad led by Ben Paulson defeated Monte Lee’s Purple team, 4-3, in 10 innings to salvage a game after the Purple took the first two games in the Orange & Purple World Series played at Doug Kingsmore on Thursday and Friday.
Clemson enters the 2017-’18 campaign riddled with question marks after losing its entire starting pitching staff. The Tigers do return veterans in Chris Williams and Seth Beer as well as Grayson Byrd and Logan Davidson in the field.
Head coach Monte Lee was impressed with how his squad progressed over the fall and is excited to see that trend continue. However, there are still a lot of questions heading into the winter months.
The Tiger pitching stuff had its ups and downs over the course of the series. In Friday’s game they walked a combined 16 batters, but Sunday gave up a mere 9 hits and pitched extremely well with runners on base.
Lee was encouraged by the ability of the young staff to bounce back Sunday after a rough Friday night.
“I’m really, really happy with what I saw out of the bullpen” he said. “There are going to be smiles on these guy’s faces that struggled a little in Game two with the way we come back and throw the way we did today especially with runners in scoring position.”
Freshman Sam Weatherly looked impressive on Sunday despite surrendering six walks. He started for the Orange and threw for three innings, surrendering one hit, no runs, and striking out two.
Clemson got significant production from the bullpen throughout the series from Ryan Miller, Ryley Gilliam, Owen Griffith, Alex Schnell, and newcomer Spencer Strider. Out of the bullpen Tiger pitching should be strong, but a lot of questions still loom over the starting spots.
“The big key for us is who are we going to be able to start and get for five or six innings? We have bullpen options. The question is who is going to start,” said Lee.
Junior Jake Higginbotham is the only returner with significant starting experience and Lee said he began to separate himself as a starter. Senior right hander Ryan Miller was described by Lee as “very consistent” and made strides to earn a starting spot as well.
“This is probably the first offseason I’ve went into not knowing who the one, two and three are and that can be a bit concerning,” said Lee.
The uncertainty in the bullpen adds pressure going into the fall but Lee said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“On the other hand, that means there is still a lot of competition going into the spring. If they want the job they have to fight and earn those weekend spots,” he said.
There is a lot of time between now and Feb. 16, when Clemson opens up with William & Mary. Clemson fans will have to wait to see who will get the baseball until then.