Clemson Baseball: New energy, some knowns and a lot of unknowns

One of the best times of the year is nearly upon us, Clemson Baseball season.  The early season success of the Tiger basketball team has clouded those thoughts for some, namely yours truly, but the reality is that Clemson Baseball is back at Doug Kingsmore Stadium starting on February 17th.

There is a feeling of a new day with Tiger Baseball, and therefore I thought I would give some thoughts about the upcoming season.  This is not a baseball preview by any stretch, but maybe a precursor to a Clemson Baseball preview if you will.

Head Coach Erik Bakich returns to Clemson, where his coaching career began 21 years ago.  However, it was a short stint for Bakich, which he has talked extensively about, being an important and memorable year.

As mentioned earlier, the season begins on February 17th at Doug Kingsmore as the Tigers will open against the Binghamton Bearcats.

18 of the first 21 games of the season will be at home, with opponents including Charlotte, Central Florida, South Carolina (one game in Clemson, one in Greenville and one in Columbia), East Tennessee State, Presbyterian, Georgia State, College of Charleston, Duke and Winthrop.

Of the first 21 games, only one is a true road game, and that is the one against South Carolina on Sunday, March 5th, as Clemson will play USC Upstate at Fluor Field in Greenville on February 28th.

The Tigers will have ACC weekend series with Duke, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Louisville and North Carolina.  The away conference series are against Georgia Tech, Florida State, NC State, Boston College, and Virginia Tech.  This leaves Virginia, Miami and Pitt as teams the Tigers will not play in the regular season.

Out of conference games including the ones already mentioned include: Binghamton (weekend series) Charlotte, UCF (weekend series), USC Upstate (twice), East Tennessee State, Presbyterian, Georgia State (weekend series), College of Charleston (twice), Kennesaw State (twice), Georgia (twice) and Coastal Carolina.

Now onto some of the players that we know, that have returned for the Tigers.

Pitchers, (innings pitched in 2022):

Caden Grice – 6 innings pitched

Casey Tallent – 23.1 innings pitched

Ty Olenchuck – 30.2 innings pitched

Jackson Lindley – 40 innings pitched

Ryan Ammons – 27.1 innings pitched

Billy Barlow – 57.2 innings pitched

Rocco Reid – 13 innings pitched

Austin Gordon – 28 innings pitched

Jay Dill – 38 innings pitched

Nick Clayton – 31.2 innings pitched

Nick Hoffman – 52 innings pitched

Transfer Pitchers:

BJ Bailey – 48 innings pitched for Spartanburg Methodist University

Willie Weiss – 34 innings pitched for University of Michigan

Infielders, (games played):

Benjamin Blackwell – 58 games, 58 starts @ Shortstop

Blake Wright – 44 games, 39 starts @ 2B/3B

Mac Starbuck – 11 games, 1 start @ 2B

Caden Grice – 58 games, 58 starts, mostly in the Outfield/1B/DH

Transfer Infielders:

Riley Bertram – 62 games, 62 starts for Michigan @ Shortstop

Outfielders, (games played): 

Tyler Corbitt – 53 games, 51 starts

Gavin Abrams – 2 games, 0 starts

Chad Fairey – 33 games, 26 starts

Will Taylor – 13 games, 13 starts

Tristan Bissetta – Redshirt year

Transfer Outfielders:

Nick Couch – Missed 22 season (also listed as a Catcher)

Catchers, (games played):

Cooper Ingle – 54 games, 54 starts

Billy Amick – 9 games, 3 starts @ DH/C

I’ll save any insight and opinion for the season preview.  This was more for us to get a look at what the “known” players that are coming back and a little light insight on some of the transfer players that have joined the fray.

As far as the Freshman, Coach Backich (and Coach Monte Lee as well) closed the recruiting year with the 14th rated recruiting class according to Perfect Game.  Here are some names that you will get to know throughout the course of the season.

Freshman Pitchers: 

Tristan Smith – LHP – Boiling Springs, SC

Joe Allen – RHP – Hampton Falls, NH

Ethan Darden – LHP – Rock Hill, SC

Nathan Dvorsky – RHP – Suwanee, GA

Freshman Catchers:

Hogan Garner – Charleston, SC

Jacob Jarrell – Florence, SC

Freshman Infielders:

Brodey Conn – Clemson, SC

Jack Crighton – Rochester Hills, MI

Nolan Nawrocki – Rockville Centre, NY

Jack Reynolds, Columbia, SC

Cooper Blauser – Johns Creek, GA

Cameron Cannarella – Hartsville, SC

Jay Dillard, Anderson, SC

Freshman Outfielders:

Nathan Hall – Lexington, SC

Lleyton Lackey – Evans, GA

There are a lot of unknowns on the roster, but what we do know is that there are capable bats up and down the roster.  We get to see a full season of highly-touted dual-sport athlete Will Taylor.  Cooper Ingle was a really tough out a season ago before an injury towards the end of the season took a little pop out of the bat.  Caden Grice will need to cut down on the strikeouts, but when he’s on, look out!  Blake Wright was solid in the top of the lineup as well.  Benjamin Blackwell, Tyler Corbitt, Chad Fairey among others.  There are many other names that I have left out that will be expounded on for the preview in a few weeks.

The biggest question mark at this point, in my estimation, will be the rotation.  It has been a long time since Clemson has gone into a weekend series knowing what they would get each day.  Granted, pitching has its ebbs and flows, but in general, the biggest issue has been consistency on the bump.  Coming back are names like Billy Barlow, who had a really good freshman campaign, Ty Olenchuck who struggled a bit in his sophomore year and is looking to bounce back with electric stuff.  We DO know Ryan Ammons has swing and miss stuff on the back end of games and is arguably one of the best closers in college baseball.  The Nick’s are back: Clayton and Hoffman.  Both were weekend starters at the beginning of the 22 season, and will look for consistency in 23.  Jackson Lindley, Casey Tallent, Austin Gordon, Jay Dill, etc. are the names we know that are looking to contribute.

Clemson Baseball enters a new era on February 17 under Erik Bakich

Coach Erik Bakich and staff have a lot of energy and there is a sense of excitement around the program.  It’s a new beginning, with some old friends.  Heck, even Jack Leggett is back in the fold as he is listed on the staff as: Program Development.

Looking forward to February 17th at The Doug!