Local product gets the baseball as Clemson opens the 2018 season
Growing up in the small town of Moore, located in Spartanburg County, Jacob Hennessy grew up watching and listening to Clemson baseball.
The Dorman High School product knows how special Opening Day is at Clemson so when he was told he would get the start for today’s season-opener against William & Mary, he knew it was a special opportunity for him.
“It is really cool,” Hennessey said earlier this week. “Just growing up in the area and constantly watching and hearing about Clemson baseball, so getting a chance to make this start is a really cool opportunity.”
Hennessy says he expects about 15 or so members of his family being in attendance for today’s 4 p.m. first pitch.
“It is going to be a good amount of them,” he said. “I have two brothers and a sister and they are all married and have kids so I’m sure they will all be out there.”
So will about 5,000 more of his closest Clemson friends as school officials expect a near sellout for the Tigers’ season opener.
However, this will not be the first time the Clemson faithful has seen Hennessy pitch. The sophomore had a 2-1 record last year with three saves and a 3.82 ERA in 26 relief appearances.
In 30.2 innings pitched, Hennessy allowed 32 hits (.274 opponents’ batting average) and 11 walks with 37 strikeouts. He held left-handed batters to a .193 batting average.
Clemson’s two-time All-American, Seth Beer, can relate. A left-side hitter, Beer said he struggled in the preseason to hit anything off the lefty.
“He honestly gives me fits, period,” the 2016 Dick Howser Award winner said. “I don’t know what it is. He goes out there and competes. That is a big part of pitching, just having confidence in your pitching and your pitches that you have and just going out there and competing every day.
“He comes and brings that every day.”
Clemson head coach Monte Lee said Hennessy was one of the more consistent pitchers in camp during fall practice and in preseason workouts.
“We love his dependability out of the bullpen and he was mostly a fastball, slider guy out of the bullpen last year, but the progress of the changeup is why he is starting,” Lee said. “His changeup right now, the last two starts, it is Charlie Barnes like. It has been as good of a pitch where hitters know it is coming and they’re swinging through it.
“It is a little bit more of straight change than Charlie’s is, but it is a really good pitch and is extremely effective.”
As for Hennessey, he is appreciative for the opportunity. He said he has had a really good fall and preseason, but he also knows a lot of other guys on the staff have pitched well, too, and he was lucky to get the opportunity.
Now, as a South Carolina native, he is getting to doing something today he only dreamed about when he was a kid pitching on the sandlots in Moore.
“I thought I prepared well for the situation and I thought I was ready if my name was called,” he said.