Freshman Kier Meredith expected to miss the start of the season
Outside of its pitching, Clemson’s only other question marks come in the outfield where it must replace All-ACC centerfielder Chase Pinder and All-American Reed Rohlman in left field.
Not only were they stellar athletes in the field, but they also led the team in hitting. Rohlman was one of the ACC’s best hitters as he hit .361 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. Pinder, one of the best defensive players in the ACC the last three seasons, was second on the squad with a .305 average with seven home runs and 32 RBIs.
“Those guys were keys to our success the last two years,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said.
And though Clemson will miss the services of Pinder and Rohlman, it did recruit well to replace them. Freshman Kier Meredith was brought in to replace Pinder in centerfield, while Matt Cooper, another freshman, is expected to fill in where Rohlman left.
“We feel like we have some options in the outfield and we feel very good about our outfield,” Lee said. “The competition this first three weekends, and we don’t have a lot of time, but those three weekends of intersquads are going to tell us a lot before the season starts.”
The Tigers, who are coming off a 42-21 season, begin practice today at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in hopes of completing its lineup before the season opens on Feb. 16 vs. Williams & Mary. The hard part, however, is they will open the season without Meredith as he continues to nurse back a shoulder he injured during fall practice.
“Centerfield is our biggest question mark,” Lee said. “It’s not that we don’t feel good about the guys who can play center, but we lost Kier Meredith in the fall. Kier was drafted by the Cubs and is one of the fastest players in the country coming out of high school. Kier reminds me of a young Brett Gardner, a left-handed hitter that has a chance to hit for a little bit of juice too, but can bunt and really run and defend.
“He injured his shoulder in the fall and will probably be out at the beginning of the season so we are trying to work a couple of guys in centerfield to see how they do and how they fit.”
Senior Drew Wharton is one of those guys. Lee says he is coming off a really good fall and he has an opportunity to start in centerfield. Freshman Bryce Teodosio, from nearby Mauldin High School, is also in the running to start in centerfield.
Lee also says second baseman Grayson Byrd has cross trained in centerfield and will provide some depth and experience there if they need someone to help out.
In leftfield, Cooper seems to be a favorite to replace Rohlman. The freshman was impressive in the fall and Lee says if he continues to play well they have to get him on the field and in the lineup.
“Offensively, his bat plays,” the Clemson coach said. “If he continues to hit and if he continues to develop offensively, we have to find a way to get him in that lineup.”
Cooper can also play right field and will join Robert Jolly or Seth Beer on the corners. Both Beer and Jolly can play both positions as well.
Beer will more than likely start at first base, but he gives Lee the option to move him to the outfield if they need to give catcher Chris Williams a break and move him over to first base.
Clemson’s probable position lineup for 2018
Chris Williams, Catcher
Seth Beer, First Base
Grayson Byrd, Second Base
Logan Davidson, Shortstop
Justin Hawkins, Third Base
Matt Cooper, Left Field
Drew Wharton, Center Field
Robert Jolly, Right Field
Kyle Wilkie, DH