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Baseball Impact Players Week 3: Depth helping Tigers find success

The Clemson Tigers are still finding themselves as they engage in early-season action at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Several newcomers to the batting order and starting rotation have created a bit of inconsistency throughout the first few weeks of the season. 

There has been some continuity, however, as to which players are proving themselves reliable contributors game in and game out, helping the Tigers  stay poised early on in the season.

Junior outfielder Chase Pinder has been solid for the Tigers since joining the team, serving as a proverbial spark plug. A scrappy slap-hitter with a knack for coming up with big hits at the right time, Pinder has been a big factor for the Tigers thus far, accruing six RBI through the first seven games. Second in runs scored in 2016, Pinder has led the way with six runs scored in 2017 for

the Tigers. 

An excellent base-runner, Pinder has consistently stretched hits into clutch doubles throughout his career and has helped set up promising innings in several games this year, too.

Outfielder K.J. Bryant, who has frequently served as the leadoff hitter for the Tigers, has also incited several key innings for the Tigers. He is one of the top on-base hitters on Clemson’s roster. A defensive specialist, Bryant has teamed up with Pinder and Reed Rohlman, both solid defensive players themselves, to make flashy plays in the outfield. The redshirt sophomore has picked up five hits in 2017 and is making himself a mainstay in the starting lineup.

Reliever Ryley Gilliam is proving to be a closer in the making in 2017, with the hard-throwing right-hander performing well coming out of the bullpen. With three quality appearances so far, Gilliam is primed to continue to perform at a high level in relief situations, much like fellow young pitcher Brooks Crawford. 

As a 6’5”, 220-pound middle reliever, Crawford is a force to be reckoned with on the hill and is a formidable opponent in the eyes of batters whom he faces. Through his first three appearances, Crawford did not allow a run to score and struck out seven batters. 

Gilliam, who struck out 14 in that stretch, has combined with Crawford to make the transition to a younger bullpen this season fairly smooth for the Tigers.

Second baseman Grayson Byrd, another newcomer to the regular lineup for the Tigers, is also playing fairly well at the start of the year. A utility man of sorts, Byrd can play all over the infield and is a defensive asset. 

With the bat, Byrd has performed well thus far as well, proving himself after a year sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. A transfer from LSU, Byrd is used to playing on the big stage and has shone out under the bright lights in February, picking up 10 hits and 12 total bases. Byrd also currently sports an impressive .333 batting average.

Additionally, the usual suspects are making a showing as impact players for the Tigers. 

Reigning National Player of the Year Seth Beer has been his usual power-hitting self to start the season, hitting two home runs already. 

Beer also drove in the winning run in Clemson’s thrilling extra-innings victory over Elon this past week, scoring catcher Robert Jolly, another early impact player. 

Filling in for injured backstop Chris Williams as part of a two-man committee with Kyle Wilkie, Jolly has already proved to be a well-rounded catcher with both his bat and his mitt.

The Tigers are young and somewhat inexperienced in various positions, but their players’ depth and sheer talent are enough to make the team’s outlook incredibly promising. 

Head Coach Monte Lee is known for his wily roster decisions, and he should be expected to utilize the best possible talent for each particular matchup. 

The baseball season is still young, though, and the contributions should continue to come from the top to the bottom of the roster as the Clemson

Tigers look to return to Omaha for their first College World Series appearance since 2010.

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