Clemson swept Liberty in an encouraging opening weekend for the Tigers. Here are some things I liked and things to keep your eye on as the season progresses.

3 things I Liked

Freshman/Newcomer Pitching. In my first article here, I wrote about Monte Lee and the pitching depth on this team. In this opening series, we saw what he was talking about and had to walk away optimistic. How about those freshman and debuts for the newcomers? Let’s take a deeper look at a few of them.

Geoffrey Gilbert – What a start to his Clemson career. Monte Lee showed extreme confidence in Gilbert bringing him in in the 5th inning in a 1-1 tie. After allowing a double and a walk, Gilbert produced two swinging strikeouts before walking another and getting out of the inning. He also pitched again Sunday and threw one inning and produced a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. 

Nick Clayton – Nick was stellar on Saturday. He came in at a tough spot in Liberty’s 8th inning with runners on 1st and 2nd before throwing a wild pitch to advance runners to 2nd and 3rd with no outs. He then produced two strikeouts and a pop out to center to get out of the inning with no harm done. What a great situation for Nick Clayton to get experience. He will be a talented weapon coming out of the bullpen.

Carter Raffield – Raffield was the pitcher I was the most excited to see this weekend. He came in on Sunday and mowed down three Liberty hitters with two strikeouts, while throwing in the mid 90’s. He’s someone to keep your eye on as the season progresses. We might get to see him start this week (weather permitting).

1-4 in order – Coming into the season, I doubt anyone had this lineup in their mind. Let’s look at their production.

  1. Elijah Henderson- Monte had talked about how good Henderson had looked in the fall, but this is a guy that had 37 plate appearances and 5 hits in all of 2019. His opening weekend consisted of going 6-11. Yes, that’s more than all of 2019.
  2. Kier Meredith – Kier was great this weekend. He started off as a DH because he has been under the weather but showed what a difference maker he can be for this lineup. He was 5-11 on the weekend with 1 RBI.
  3. James Parker- Monte had said that Parker had been very “offensive” for them in the fall, but what a start to the year. He was 5-13 in the series, with a home-run in Sunday’s game.
  4. Adam Hackenberg- Hackenberg was a big surprise to me batting cleanup. He has improved tremendously since the end of the 2019 season. He was 6/13 (all singles) with 4 RBI’s which were all crucial throughout the weekend.

Strikeout

Clemson struck out five times on Friday, three on Saturday, and seven on Sunday. Note that Noah Skirrow (Liberty’s starter) is a big strikeout pitcher. Clemson did a good job for making Liberty’s defense work and mostly did a good job with two strike hitting.

3 Things to Keep Watching

5-8 Spots: Clemson is going to need to find some more consistency in these spots in the order. The 5-8 hitters on the weekend consisted of Bo Majkowski, Chad Fairey, Sam Hall, Bryce Teodosio, Dylan Brewer, Davis Sharpe, and Bryar Hawkins. They went 4-37 on the weekend. Monte will mix and match his line-up to create match-ups, but these spots are still question marks for Clemson moving forward.

Slugging? Clemson totaled 28 hits over the weekend against a proven, veteran Liberty pitching staff. Out of those 28 hits, only five were for extra bases. I’m not going to be picky over a good weekend but scoring obviously gets tougher when you must hit singles and move people around vs. doubles, triples, and HR. It’s early in the season but something to watch as season progresses.

Walks: This is mainly specific to Friday. We have talked about Weatherly’s big arm and his potential, and he again showed he can be on Friday. But while he showed what he can be in a good way, he also showed what he can be in a bad way. He pitched 4 innings with 8 strikeouts and 6 BB. Gilbert came in and pitched extremely well as noted above, but he also walked two hitters. Sheldon Reed came in and walked two batters as well before Spiers stopped the damage. Liberty’s offense struggled this past weekend and we will find out if that’s an indictment on Clemson pitching, or Liberty hitting. I would assume it’s somewhere in the middle. In ACC competition, you won’t be able to get out of every pressure packed inning when giving up free passes. I’m in the camp where we can be optimistic and think it was opening day jitters, but it’s something to keep our eye on as we go into next weekend against Stony Brook.

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