Clemson's southpaw hurler ready to step up
After turning down the New York Mets out of high school, lefthander Jake Higginbotham came to Clemson with high expectations for himself.
However, his collegiate baseball career was put on hold when he suffered a stress fracture in his throwing elbow on April 23, 2016, the later part of his freshman year.
Days after that, head coach Monte Lee announced Higginbotham was going to undergo surgery which would require a screw to be placed in his arm. The Tigers were hopeful Higginbotham would be able to return for the 2017 season, but unfortunately he was not able to.
Up until this season Higginbotham had spent most of his Clemson career recovering and getting himself back to full health. He made his first start since the injury on Feb. 18, 2018, and has since found success all season as Clemson’s regular season Sunday starter.
As the Tigers prepare to host the Clemson regional starting on Friday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, Higginbotham is excited to finally play a major role in the postseason this year, rather than watching his teammates compete from the dugout, like he’s done the past two seasons.
“It will be fun,” Higginbotham said in Thursday’s NCAA press conference. “I worked hard to get healthy and stay healthy this year. I feel like I’ve put myself in a good position to be ready for Saturday. Just go out there and compete on every pitch. I’m just excited to have this opportunity again.”
During this past Monday’s NCAA selection show, Clemson found out it was the No. 10 seed, falling just short of being a national seed. This weekend the Tigers will host No. 2 seed Vanderbilt, No. 3 St. John’s and No. 4 Morehead State.
Clemson and Morehead State will meet at 6 p.m. on Friday.
“We had a meeting after the selection show,” Higginbotham said. “We kind of approached it from a business-like standpoint. It didn’t really matter what seed we got chosen. We knew we were hosting. It didn’t really matter what teams were coming in here. We have three great teams coming in, we have to go out there and play our best baseball.
“At the end of the day it’s about competing every pitch, having fun in the dugout, staying loose, being behind your teammates and doing whatever it is you can, whether you’re on the field or in the dugout, to help your team win.”
This is the third straight season the Tigers have hosted a regional but they have yet to make it to the super regional round. In fact, Clemson has not made it out of a regional since 2010, which was also the team’s last trip to Omaha.
“We expect to win,” Higginbotham said. “We go out there every single day and expect to win. We know we’re going to have fun. We’re always with each other whether it be at the field or off of the field. We’re always with each other, having fun. We have a really, really talented group of guys who get along.
“We have coaches that coach us hard. They’re loose in the dugout. It’s just a great environment when we get in the dugout and get on the field. We’re expecting to win. We have a lot of confidence. We have a lot of swagger. Just having fun playing baseball. At the end of the day it’s a game and you’re supposed to have fun so that’s just what we do.”