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The Tiger

The good, the bad and the ugly: An in-depth preview of Clemson baseball 2016

Allison Daniel, Sports Editor
Junior shortstop Eli White (4) steps up to bat. 

The groundhog did not see his shadow, which means that spring is coming early this year. Good news too, because that means baseball is right around the corner. 

The Tigers look to prove something with a bounce-back year and an appearance in the Super Regionals tournament to, hopefully, compete for a spot in the College World Series.

It all starts with a team’s head coach. 

Monte Lee, first year skipper for the Tigers, called being coach his “dream job.” Lee brings with him a proven ability to get the most out of his teams. 

Before Clemson, Lee was the head coach of the College of Charleston for seven years and an assistant to the South Carolina Gamecocks for six years before that. As head coach of the CofC Cougars, Lee compiled a 276-145 win-loss record and led the team to multiple Regional tournament appearances and even a Top 25 appearance in 2015.

 In 2012, Lee’s Cougars defeated the Clemson Tigers 4-2 for the first time in program history. While head coach, Lee’s teams have finished in the top five in home runs and total offense five out of seven years.

Clemson’s offense should have no problem this year. The Tigers’ offense has returning stars Chris Okey, Reed Rohlman, Eli White and Weston Wilson. Both Okey and Rohlman received All-American honors last year and Rohlman was the second Clemson freshman to do so

in history.

Eli White will be back as the starting shortstop and hopefully improve on his already fantastic performance in 2015. He hit .297 and led the team in sacrifice bunts and bunts for a hit. White won the leadoff hitter spot in the second half and projects to be there again this year.

Another key returning player is Chris Okey. Okey made his name on the team by hitting a team high 12 home runs with 57 runs batted in (RBI) and for making acrobatic defensive plays as a catcher and becoming a leader in the locker room. He was named an All-American as a sophomore due to his excellent defense and

polished bat.

Weston Wilson had five home runs to go along with 26 RBI and has become a useful utility infielder capable of playing most positions. He gives the team a good strategical edge.

Sophomore Reed Rohlman might be the most impressive one coming back. As a freshman, Rohlman hit .356 and got on base more than 41 percent of the time. He led the team in batting average with runners in scoring position which resulted in a team high 58 RBI. Rholman also started all but one game in left field.

Freshman standout Seth Beer is a new addition to this slugging corp. He was rated the No. 1 outfield and No. 2 overall player by Diamond Prospects. He was also a two-time Under Armour All-American in high school. Beer figures to be competing for a starting outfield spot and increasing the amount of depth in the lineup.

The areas where the Tigers will need to improve are defense and pitching. Both Matthew Crownover and Zack Erwin left Clemson last year for the draft. Crownover was the team’s ace, and was the first Clemson player since the 1970s to record an earned run average (ERA) less than two with more than 50 innings pitched in one season.

Charlie Barnes is the only returning starter to record an ERA under four and pitch more than 10 innings. The spots for starting rotation are wide open and the rotation figures to be adjusted as the season wears on.

Defense was also an issue in 2015. The Tigers committed 95 errors in 61 games. While that number is atrocious, new head coach Monte Lee seems to have a plan for that. 

“Our team will always be on offense in everything we do,” he said. “When we are pitching we will attack, when we are on defense we will attack and we will attack when we run the bases.” 

Aggressive defense will be important in backing up a brand new untested pitching staff. Attacking balls in play is the first step to making

the out.

     Though it is the first year with a new head coach in over twenty years, the Tigers seem to still be in a good place. They will be playing aggressive ball and, while that can produce mistakes in the field, their hitting and

pitching should most

certainly benefit. 

Clemson should be competitive all season long and really benefit from having a new perspective in

the clubhouse. 

I expect for them to produce a 30-26 record led by the hitting. 

They should severely cut down on their strikeouts and improve their batting average as a team. 

The pitching should regress a little, but as the freshmen and sophomores improve throughout the year, the rotation and bullpen will round out nicely.

Under former Coach Jack Leggett, the Tigers made six appearances in the College World Series. Here’s to hoping Coach Lee works his magic and guides the Tigers to yet another.

The Clemson Tigers open their season against the Maine Black Bears on Feb. 19. Last year, Clemson swept the Black Bears in a three-game series.

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