Did Clemson Baseball peak too early?

The Tigers lost three games in a row after a fantastic start to the season. Did this team peak too early or is this just a bump in the road?

Clemson Baseball has gotten off to one of the best starts in program history this year, but baseball seasons are long. There are bound to be ups and downs and the Tigers are not immune to such things.

Clemson lost three games in a row this week before posting a win on Sunday, but by then the damage was done. The Tigers dropped their first series of the season to the visiting NC State Wolfpack two games to one.

The losing streak started during the midweek with a 9-5 loss at Doug Kingsmore Stadium to the USC Upstate Spartans. Clemson then lost Friday to the Wolfpack 11-8 before dropping Saturday’s contest 4-0. The Tigers pulled out a victory Sunday 7-0 to prevent being swept for the first time this season.

What should we make of this swoon? Did this team peak too early? My answer is no – we can point to reasons this happened that could resolve themselves as the latter half of the season progresses.

The first reason is the most common disruptor for all athletes: injuries. The first one of note is pitcher Tristan Smith, who had been the regular Saturday starter. His absence forced Erik Bakich and the staff to shift their rotation around. This is generally disruptive but specifically took resources away from a bullpen which had been as good as any staff in college baseball to begin the season.

Clemson has missed Smith but it had not been a major impact on the bottom line record until this week when it was combined with an injury to Andrew Ciufo.

Jason Priester from All Clemson Tigers gave the best explanation I have found on Facebook for why Ciufo’s absence has led to a waterfall effect on the Clemson defense:

" It's having a big impact so far. Cuifo being out means you lose your starting SS, the anchor of your infield. It also means losing your starting 1B who you gotta move to SS. Then you gotta move Obertop to 1B. It def looks like it's having an impact on some of the chemistry they had out there."

Jason Priester

Ciufo might be lost for the season, but the issue his injury created isn’t something the team can’t overcome. They simply need time to adjust, and realistically they might have done so already, as evidenced by the solid game on Sunday.

Additionally, Smith is ready to return this week. It doesn’t sound like he will immediately jump back into the starting rotation, but he should gradually move in that direction.

There is plenty of time for Clemson Baseball to get back to the form they have shown through most of the first half of the season, and they will start tomorrow hosting the Charlotte 49ers at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. They will then host the Pittsburgh Panthers for a three-game series this coming weekend.