Clemson opens 2020 play with a 3-game series against the defending Atlantic Sun Champs, Liberty, who return key pieces from their 2019 team that made noise in the Chapel Hill Regional. The Flames won 43 games in 2019, are picked to win the A-Sun again in 2020 by Baseball America and picked to come in 2nd (behind Florida Gulf Coast) in 2020 according to D1 Baseball.
Clemson will not have a lot of time to get acclimated to a new lineup against the Flames. Noah Skirrow, the junior righty out of Canada, finished 2019 going 5-6 with a 3.76 ERA and pitching 76 2/3 innings. Skirrow led the Atlantic Sun in K/9 with 11.5. He gets his fastball up to 95 and uses his curveball as is go to out pitch.
Skirrow did allow 4.1 walks per 9 IP in 2019, so control has been an issue in the past. He was voted Preseason Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America after his strong sophomore campaign as a Saturday starter.
One of the other weekend starters will be Joseph Adametz, who went 7-2 with a 4.04 ERA in 2019. Adametz will live in the upper 80’s and is someone that will pound the zone consistently and make Clemson batters find a way on.
Mason Meyer, who went 6-4 with a 4.28 ERA, will be the final weekend starter. Meyer was the midweek starter for Liberty a year ago, where he faced 10 ACC teams and 1 SEC team. Meyer is more of the crafty lefty starter and will force Clemson to stay patient and stay in the zone offensively.
Out of the bullpen Liberty will bring in senior Garret Price. Price, who is also preseason All Atlantic Sun, had a 7-3 record in 2019. He struck out 71 batters, while walking 24, in 65 2/3 innings. Price is an upper 80’s arm, with good control and a good feel for his off-speed pitches. David Erickson and Landon Riley will also be pitchers coming out of the pen for the Flames throughout the weekend.
Liberty looks to replace the offense of the A-Sun Player of the Year in 2019, Jonathan Embry, who was drafted in the 2019 MLB Draft, as well as their 3-hole hitter, Tyler Galazin. Picking up that offensive load will be 2B Will Wagner.
Wagner, son of MLB great Billy Wagner, was voted A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year by Baseball America. He hit .305/.382/.444 as a sophomore, while also hitting 6 HR’s and knocking in 42. Gray Betts, who will likely start in left field, walked 38 times to go with only 17 K’s in 2019 and will be a patient bat for the Flames at the top of the order. Liberty lost returning first baseman, Logan Mathieu, to injury in 2020. He was their top returning HR and RBI producer.
Like Clemson, Liberty loses a lot of talent from last years team and offense is their question mark heading into the new year.
This is an extremely difficult opening series for Clemson as they start to search for answers in 2020. Clemson’s new (hopefully) offensive approach will be put to test early against Skirrow and, against the other experienced Liberty starters.
Liberty will be a team that plays smart, fundamental baseball. They will hit the ball to the opposite field, stay in the strike zone offensively, throw strikes on the mound, and make plays defensively.
As there are so many question marks around Clemson, it’s hard to make a prediction for the weekend. I expect low scoring games throughout the series due to Clemson’s offense being unproven and Liberty losing some key bats in their order from 2019. However, I am also of the belief that Clemson’s pitching staff is going to surprise a lot of people throughout the year. Clemson winning 2 out of 3 is my prediction and would be a good start to the 2020 year.