This time last year, the scenario on the mound looked a lot different for Clemson.
Going into the 2018 season the Tigers had to replace all three starting pitchers, which they did so with a weekend rotation consisting of Jacob Hennessy, Brooks Crawford and Jake Higginbotham.
Fortunately for Clemson, Higginbotham is the only one lost coming into the new year after he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.
However, the Tigers are still unsure of how the weekend rotation will look in 2019. Right now there are four guys competing for the three spots, including Crawford who returns for his senior season and Hennessy, now a junior.
“Right now the two guys that have the most experience are Brooks Crawford and Jacob Hennessy,” head coach Monte Lee said. “So those two guys will be in the mix along with Spencer Strider. Spencer has looked dominant in live bullpens.”
As the Saturday starter in 2018, Crawford had an 8-2 record and a 3.24 ERA in 16 starts. In 80.2 innings pitched, he allowed 71 hits with a .234 opponents’ batting average along with 18 walks with 58 strikeouts. The 6-foot-4 righty led the team in wins and innings pitched and was also tied for the team lead in starts on the mound.
As a sophomore last year, Hennessy transitioned from a reliever his freshman year to the Friday night starter. He had a 4-3 record and 3.91 ERA in 14 starts. In 71.1 innings pitched, he allowed 72 hits with a .259 opponents’ batting average and 14 walks with 54 strikeouts.
Strider and freshman Davis Sharpe are the other two vying for a weekend spot. Strider, Clemson’s top freshman in 2018, has one of the hardest fastballs on the team and took on the role of both a long reliever and mid-week starter. The Knoxville, Tenn., native was a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and All-ACC Freshman selection last season. He posted a 5-2 record and 4.76 ERA in 22 appearances including six starts.
Although a freshman, as a 6-foot-3 lefty, Davis Sharpe has already caught the attention of many. Sharpe was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school and is a two-way player.
According to Lee, he was the most consistent pitcher on the staff in the fall. He hit close to .300 with four home runs and a team-high 16 RBIs.
“Davis Sharpe,” Lee said, “a true freshman that is very, very talented on both ends. He can really hit too. But Davis is going to be a factor. Justin Wrobleski, a very talented freshman, is going to be a factor. Jackson Lindley, a true freshman, is going to be a factor.
“But I would say just kind of where we sit right now, the four guys are Crawford, Hennessy, Strider and Sharpe,” Lee said. “Those four guys, for me right now, have stood out over the course of the fall and going into the spring. I would say they are at the forefront of being in that mix. But those other guys have a chance to be special as well.”