There will be a lot less Beer served at Doug Kingsmore Stadium this spring. Seth Beer, that is. But Clemson is not focused on the ones who won’t be returning.
With the loss of power hitters like Beer and Chris Williams, to name a few, the Tigers, who were ranked as high as No. 14 in the preseason by Baseball America, may have a different style this baseball season, which gets underway in exactly three weeks.
Beer and Williams, who combined for 40 home runs last year have moved on from Clemson and into professional baseball with an absence that is felt. However, head coach Monte Lee, who is going into his fourth season at the helm for the Tigers, does not see it as much of an issue as others might believe.
“I think that’s more maybe speculation than anything,” Lee said Friday afternoon before the Tigers’ first preseason practice of the 2019 season. “I don’t know if we’re not going to be a team that hits for power. We don’t know yet. I think that’s probably the fairest way to put it.”
Although “power” may not be the focal point of the offensive approach this year, Lee is excited about other attributes this year’s lineup brings to the table. Attributes that could quite possibly bring them even more success than last year.
“What we do have in terms of personnel of the field is a group of guys who are a little more dynamic, who are a little bit faster, a little more athletic,” Lee said. “I think it gives us the opportunity to do more things. I think you always want an offense that can score when the wind is blowing in and when the conditions aren’t very good for offense that day. You want to feel like as a coach, that you have a lineup that can still score runs.”
The good news for Clemson is that the Tigers are returning several key players including third-year veteran shortstop Logan Davidson along with third-year veteran catcher Kyle Wilkie. Davidson has been such a dynamic piece to the puzzle his last two seasons both offensively and in the field. The same could be said for Wilkie, who led the team with a .324 average last season and hit in every spot of the lineup but leadoff.
Wilkie will start the season with a 29-game hitting streak.
Infielders Jordan Greene and Third-Team All-ACC selection, Grayson Byrd return to the lineup with much experience under their belts as well. Not only will their previous successes and experience benefit the team this season, but Lee is even more impressed by the leadership qualities they all possess.
“We have great leadership,” Lee said. “It’s the first year where I feel like it’s a player driven leadership. Guys like Logan Davidson, Carson Spiers, Jacob Hennessy, Kyle Wilkie, some of the older guys, Grayson Byrd, Jordan Greene.
“They’ve really done just an unbelievable job of policing the team and setting the expectations. I don’t feel like I’m the one that necessarily has to do all of that now. That’s been the cool part as a head coach, I feel like I’m actually stepping back a little bit and watching them run the team, which is really nice to see.”
And hopefully fans will see it too in just three more weeks when Clemson opens the season with South Alabama for a three-game series starting Friday, Feb. 15.
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