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Veteran pitchers, young talent helping Tigers find pitching depth: Barnes, Gilliam leading way for Clemson

Caleb Haik, staff

It’s no secret that last year’s Clemson baseball team struggled with pitching. There were 10 games throughout the season when the opposing team posted 10 or more runs against the staff. 

With a shallow bullpen of young players, Head Coach Monte Lee had to put together a patchwork pitching staff to carry the team through the season. 

This season, the bullpen has more depth to it and more veterans, enabling Lee to work on solidifying his rotation without having to worry about having guys to go in the next game. 

Lee addressed his hopes for the pitching earlier in the year, saying, “The one thing we do know is that last year, we had to put guys in those spots because it was all we had. This year, we can choose which guy to put in those spots because we have options, we have depth and we have competition.”

The starting rotation on the weekends thus far has remained consistent with Charlie Barnes on Fridays, Pat Krall on Saturdays and Alex Eubanks on Sundays. 

Krall, the best pitcher from last year’s squad, struggled early on in the year and has also suffered from some defensive struggles. His 4.32 ERA is high but he is still 2-0 on the year. 

Barnes has been spectacular in his three performances, even though he has a 0-1 record. He’s scattered 17 hits across 19.1 innings pitched, giving up four runs, only two earned, while striking out 24 and walking three. 

Barnes was not the pitcher of record in his outings against Wright State or Elon and was handed the loss to South Carolina after the Gamecocks won 2-0 on two unearned runs. He has also only given up three extra base hits and no homeruns so far. 

Teams are batting a .236 against Barnes and he has seemingly solidified his spot as the Friday night starter for now.

Eubanks started the season off badly against Wright State, giving up five earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched. Against Elon in his next appearance, he looked much sharper and kept the ball lower in the strike zone. As a result, Phoenix batters mustered only three hits and no runs against him. 

Against South Carolina, Eubanks thew 6.0 innings, giving up eight hits but only three earned runs while striking out four batters. 

Overall, he is 1-1 with eight runs, all earned, and 17 strikeouts to four walks. 

The starting rotation isn’t the only positive for Clemson pitching. The emergence of Ryley Gilliam as a closer has also helped out the Tigers. 

Gilliam, whose fastball can touch 97 mph, has been solid in his four appearances. Most recently, against South Carolina in game two of the series, he earned his first win of the season to accompany his one save of the year. 

In just eleven innings pitched, Gilliam has an ERA of 0.82, giving up only one earned run total. He has also struck out 18 batters and only walked two. Opposing teams are only batting .114

against him. 

Prior to the South Carolina appearance in game two, Gilliam had a pretty easy time closing things out for the Tigers. His outing against the Gamecocks showed he could handle the pressure of a more intense game. 

With the winning run at the plate in a very good Alex Destino, Gilliam was able to get the strikeout to end the game and seal the victory for Clemson. 

After the game Lee said, “I wanted to see how Ryley would react … your closer isn’t always going to come in and strike out the side.” 

Thus far, the Tigers have only played one midweek game per week instead of two, so the true depth and skill of the bullpen hasn’t been heavily tested. 

Tyler Jackson, a redshirt graduate, has emerged as a midweek starter. In his first outing against Western Carolina, he struggled against a powerful lineup and gave up three runs in 2.1 innings pitched. 

Lee stuck with him as the starter against Wofford and Jackson showed a lot of improvement. He was able to go seven innings and gave up only one run. 

Right now, his ERA sits at 4.91, still a bit inflated from that Western Carolina matchup since he has only pitched a total of 11 innings. 

In the pen, Brooks Crawford and Jacob Hennessy have emerged as two relievers the Tigers can rely on. 

A big lefty, Hennessy has been brought in several times to give the Tigers a favorable matchup against left-handed hitters, but has also been used in longer stints of relief. 

He has a sparkling 1.80 ERA and has 14 strikeouts to his name, tied for third most on the team. 

Crawford is a contender for a second midweek starter but has been used strictly as a reliever so far. He has only pitched four innings and is still sitting at a 0.00 ERA (he has given up one unearned run). Through his 5.2 innings, he has struck out eight and has not walked a batter. 

Overall, this pitching staff has a combined ERA of 2.83 over 105 innings pitched, giving up 41 runs, 33 of which were earned. 

The most startling statistic is the strikeout to walk ratio. Clemson pitchers have combined to strike out 121 batters while only walking 28. 

As conference play begins, the depths of the bullpen and the integrity of the Tiger pitchers will be tested more heavily, but thus far they have

been solid. 

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