To this point in Monte Lee’s tenure at Clemson, the biggest issue has been in reference to his pitching staff, mostly the depth. Lee came into this season with high hopes for this years pitching staff, and raved about the depth.
Just two weeks into the season, the Clemson pitchers have lived up to the hype. This staff has carried the Tigers to a 7-0 start, one that really could have otherwise been disastrous, due to very little offense. The Tigers are coming off a three-game sweep of Stony Brook in which they scored just six runs.
Clemson enters Tuesday’s game with East Tennessee State on a current streak of 35 innings without allowing an earned run. They had a stretch of 33 innings without surrendering any type of run snapped in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Stony Brook.
Since Clemson too season-opening 5-3 win over Liberty, this staff hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any game. They have only given up three earned runs over the past 54 innings. Teams are batting just 3-for-57 with runners in scoring position (.053). This Tigers pitching staff has also been very efficient in getting out of trouble with little to no damage done. This has been remarkable feat, compared to recent seasons.
For example, freshman Nick Clayton took the mound in the eighth inning of the second game of the season with two on, no outs, and a 1-0 lead against Liberty. Clayton escaped a bases loaded, one out situation. That showing in his college debut was a hint of what was to come for the staff as far as exiting jams unscathed goes.
This staff ranks second nationally with a 0.70 ERA (only five earned runs allowed) and is tied for second with three shutouts. They are ranked fifth with 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings, and are allowing only 5.06 hits per game, ranking eighth nationally. Clemson pitchers have struck out 93 batters while giving up only 30 walks.
To put this into perspective, the Tigers registered only three shutouts total the past two seasons combined. Seven games in, and they have already matched that number.
Sam Weatherly has been the Friday starter. He has 22 strikeouts to 7 walks, has allowed just one run, and only four hits in only 10 innings. He has a 0.90 era to this point.
Spencer Strider, who is returning from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss last year, is being held to a strict 50-pitch limit so far. He still has nine strikeouts to one walk, has given up no runs, and has allowed only three hits in his two starts (5.2 innings pitched)
🗣 @SpencerSTRIDer: "I go back to this time last year and think about how far I've come and how much I've learned, and how easy that made pitching today. I have to thank my teammates and everyone else who helped me." 💯 pic.twitter.com/21MGEijVc8— Clemson Baseball (@ClemsonBaseball) February 16, 2020
Mat Clark has relieved Strider in both of his starts, while Keyshawn Askew has relieved Davis Sharpe (a two-way player) midway through games. This has been done in part, to help keep Sharpe’s pitch count down. Sharpe has yet to give up any runs in his two starts (11.0 innings pitched), has 12 strikeouts to just one walk, and has allowed 8 hits.
Carson Spiers was arguably the only “guarantee” coming into the season. He was seen as a proven closer and he has yet to the team down this season. Spiers already has three saves, while allowing only two hits and no earned runs over eight innings, in five appearances.
Is this just a matter of early success that doesn’t last or has Monte finally gotten the rotation and bullpen that he’s needed to get this baseball program back on track and out of a regional? Only time, will tell but most fans would tell you that this pitching staff has been really exciting to watch and hopefully that continues.