What We Heard: Clemson baseball previews Opening Day

What We Heard: Clemson baseball previews Opening Day

Baseball

What We Heard: Clemson baseball previews Opening Day

Most of the question marks seemed to be getting answered as 12th-ranked Clemson prepares to host William & Mary on opening day Friday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

On Tuesday the media spoke with head coach Monte Lee, left-handed pitcher Jacob Hennessy and outfielder Seth Beer. Here is what we heard:

The Tigers came into the 2018 season looking to replace all of their starters on the mound and after a competitive battle all fall and over the past few weeks of preseason practice, Lee and the rest of his coaching staff have finally found their guys for the first series of the year.

Lee announced Tuesday that sophomore Jacob Hennessy will be given the Friday night start this weekend, followed by junior right-hander Brooks Crawford on Saturday and then back to a lefty with Jake Higginbotham taking the mound Sunday.

Hennessy found out just twenty minutes before talking to the media that he would be starting Friday. In 2017 he was one of Lee’s most reliable arms out of the pen. In 26 relief appearances, he had a 2-1 record with three saves and a 3.82 ERA. The trust he gained from Lee has now vaulted him into a starters role this year.

“I’ve had a year under my belt to pitch in some really big games so that definitely helps,” Hennessy said. “(Last year) taught me that college is a lot different and the season is a lot longer. So just taking one game at a time, staying in your routine and you’re going to have highs and lows when you throw a lot of innings and that’s just baseball.”

“We really struggled with these decisions because we have about six guys that pitched well enough to start,” Lee told the media Tuesday. “We’ve had a hard time scoring. In the last six or seven inner squads we have had a hard time scoring runs and that’s just a testament to Coach (Andrew) See and the pitching staff and how well they’ve thrown.

“There were a number of guys in the mix but we felt like first weekend, these guys have experience and they’ve thrown well enough to deserve to start,” Lee said.

Lee is confident with the depth and experience he has in the bullpen and unlike last year’s goal of getting Charlie Barnes, Alex Eubanks and Pat Krall deep into the game, he feels going to the bullpen in the fourth or fifth inning this year will give them successful results as well.

“We feel like we have more depth this year and we feel like we can run a couple of different looks at a lineup and maybe use three to four guys in a ballgame, but hopefully, get the same result,” he said.

The pitching rotation was not the only question for the Tigers, as there were several different scenarios Lee could potentially use with his position players as well. Tuesday confirmed that until Chris Williams is 100% healthy to catch again, he will start at first base, putting sophomore Kyle Wilkie behind the plate and Seth Beer in the outfield.

“I’ve gotten as prepared as a I can for first base and right field and left field too,” Beer said Tuesday. “I’ve prepared in those three positions and whatever the situation asks that’s where I’ll be.

“I’ve been taking as many reps as I can at every position and just preparing myself for what Friday holds.”

Jordan Greene will be the starting second baseman Friday and while it’s tight between Grayson Byrd and Patrick Cromwell starting at third, as of right now Byrd has the starting job.

“Byrd will probably have the upper hand because of his experience, but Patrick Cromwell has had some incredible at-bats,” Lee said. “He has done really well for us. He can play third or play first base. If we need to DH Chris, if he is a little sore and we need to DH him, we can easily slide Cromwell over there and play him at first base as well.”

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