Brooks Crawford will get the baseball first Friday when 10th-seeded Clemson takes the field at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Game 2 of the Clemson Regional.
Clemson head coach Monte Lee made the announcement following Thursday’s practice as the Tigers finish preparation for their game against Morehead State.
Crawford emerged a Clemson’s best starter this year. In the 15 games he has started, the Tigers are 13-2, including an 8-2 record in his 10 decisions. In his last five regular-season starts, he allowed just one walk, while earning five straight victories.
“It is a tough decision anytime you are going into regional play trying to figure out what is the right way to go about setting up a rotation,” Lee said. “We felt like Brooks gave us the best matchup. We also felt like, just from a rest standpoint, he was the most ready to start.
“It was a combination of the matchup of Morehead State, along with adequate rest coming off the ACC Tournament. We felt like Brooks was the right matchup to go with.”
Crawford did not get the win over Miami in the ACC Tournament last Thursday, but he allowed just one run and three hits in five innings of work.
The righty pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings against Vanderbilt in the Clemson Regional Finals last year. It was his longest outing of the season after he came back from a serious bout with mononucleosis, as he had a season-high four strikeouts in that game as well.
Now Crawford gets the baseball first as a starter in an NCAA Regional game.
“It is a little different,” he said. “Last year, I was battling illness with mono and I did know what my role was going to be. I threw one of the intersquad scrimmages before the regional. I threw really well and I felt back to normal and I got to throw the Vanderbilt game so that was really exciting last year so I’m kind of looking forward to this weekend.”
Crawford heads into Friday’s game with a 3.35 ERA, the second best on the team among the starters. In 75 1/3 innings of work, he has 56 strikeouts to 16 walks which is the second best pitch-to-walk ratio on the team among those who have pitched 60 or more innings.
“It is because of Brooks and what Brooks has done,” Lee said. “He took the challenge that I presented to him at the fall of his junior year and he made the most of it. That is what you like to see from your players.
“It just shows you the confidence he has in himself and the toughness that he has to be able to do what he has been able to do this year. I’m very, very proud of Brooks.”
Morehead State comes in as one of the best hitting teams in the country so it will present Crawford and the Tigers a big challenge.
“You are going to deal with a team that is battle tested,” Lee said. “You are also going to deal with a team that is really, really excited to be here. To get this type of opportunity and to earn this opportunity … you have to earn this opportunity at a regional when you have to win the conference tournament. So we know they are going to be a tough group.”