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Opponent Preview: Clemson

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Meet the Tigers... A streaky team if there ever was one

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 03 Vanderbilt v Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Clemson

Mascot: Pooh’s Friend | School Location: Clempson, SC | Conference: ACC

2022 Record: 17-7 (1-4, 6th Atlantic) | 2022 RPI Rank: 78

2021 Record: 25-27 (16-20, 5th Atlantic) | 2021 RPI Rank: 62

2020 Record: 14-3 (3-0, T-1st Atlantic) | 2020 RPI Rank: 8


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Doug Kingsmore Stadium (Clemson, SC)

Game Time(s): Fri, Apr 1 @ 6:00pm | Sat, Apr 2 @ 6:00pm | Sun, Apr 3 @ 1:00pm

TV: Friday (ACCNX), Saturday (ACC Network), Sunday (ACCNX)

Radio: GoPack.com (Friday | Saturday | Sunday) / WKNC 88.1

Live Stats: Stat Broadcast


Tell me about this team

Monte Lee is a great coach, but you have to wonder if Clemson is going to start getting impatient with him. The Tigers lured Lee away from the College of Charleston, his alma mater, in 2015 after he led the Cougars to three conference championships, three NCAA Regional appearances, and one Super Regional in seven years as the head coach. Early returns at Clemson were great, capturing an ACC Tournament title in his first year on campus and an Atlantic Division title in 2018, but the 2019 and 2021 campaigns were less than desired. Granted, his 2020 team may well have been his best, but we’ll never know how that would have turned out.

This season started out with the Tigers being one of the hottest teams in the country. Clemson jumped out to an impressive 14-0 start, including a series sweep over rival South Carolina. Tiger fans couldn’t have asked for much more. Since then, though, the team has gone just 3-7, with two of those wins being midweek triumphs over a very bad Winthrop team. Things are dicey right now.

Part of the recent struggles can be attributed to veteran bats who have been slumping. 1B Caden Grice was a 2021 Freshman All-American and entered the year considered a lock to be a 2023 1st round MLB Draft pick. He’s hitting just .227/.350/.371. OF Dylan Brewer, who almost single-handedly killed the Wolfpack last year, is hitting just .232/.306/.404, while C Jonathan French and INF Bryar Hawkins have also not taken the step forward that most expected. A couple impact transfers (SS Benjamin Blackwell and 2B Tyler Corbitt) and some step-up second-year players (C Cooper Ingle and 3B Max Wagner) have helped the offense click and pick up the slack for those who haven’t yet hit their stride.

That said, getting Grice back to Grice form and getting some increased production from Brewer, French, and Hawkins could lead this lineup to be one of the best in the ACC. That’s if it all comes together.

On the mound, the pitching has been streaky. The starting rotation is talented enough, especially Mack Anglin, but the results haven’t always carried. Anglin is good enough to beat any hitter he faces, but his control holds him back significantly. Nick Hoffmann and Nick Clayton are solid enough guys, but Hoffmann has struggled in ACC play while Clayton is a converted reliever who isn’t providing enough innings as a Sunday guy to take the load off a bullpen that, while a strength, is really something that you don’t want to have to go six innings in the last game of a series.

This team is probably not as good as their 14-0 start indicated, but is also significantly better than their recent woes would tell you. The average is somewhere in between, which is probably an average ACC squad. There’s the talent on hand that this could be an NCAA Regional team, but the offense is going to need to click and the starting pitching is going to have to provide more consistency.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Mack Anglin (rSO)

Saturday: RHP Nick Hoffmann (rSO)

Sunday: RHP Nick Clayton (rSO)


Key Players:

Offense

C Cooper Ingle (SO) - .382/.508/.584, 6 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 26 R, 23 RBI, 24 BB, 12 K, 2 HBP, 0-0 SB. Had a 14-game hitting streak to open the year, then another 8-game hitting streak that was snapped this past Tuesday. The lefty hitter barely played a year ago, but has wrangled the starting catcher job away from Jonathan French, a guy who was getting some preseason hype regarding the MLB Draft. Ingle has thrown out 6-of-16 runner who have attempted a stolen base this year.

3B Max Wagner (SO) - .373/.520/.760, 8 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 23 R, 23 RBI, 20 BB, 22 K, 4 HBP, 1-1 SB. Having a huge breakout year after being mostly a bench guy in 2021. Is quickly moving up draft boards thanks to the bat and his arm strength that will allow him to stick at the hot corner at in the pros.

SS Benjamin Blackwell (rJR) - .338/.485/.519, 3 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 21 R, 21 RBI, 18 BB, 24 K, 5 HBP, 2-2 SB. Grad transfer from Dayton (.309/.406/.421 hitter there) where he was a 1st Team All-A10 selection last year. A natural leadoff hitter with a great approach.

2B Tyler Corbitt (SO) - .322/.370/.500, 4 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 21 R, 17 RBI, 5 BB, 18 K, 3 HBP, 4-4 SB. Transfer from The Citadel where he was a SoCon All-Freshman selection in 2019. Has been on fire over the last six games, with three multiple-hit efforts and three total home runs in that span.

Pitching

RHP Mack Anglin (rSO) - 3-2, 4.55 ERA, 27.2 IP, 16 H, 23 BB, 29 K. Big kid with big stuff. Most likely a reliever at the next level, but the stuff (especially his curveball) is drool-worthy... that is, when he can command it. A bit erratic with his velocity, too, but can reach the mid-to-upper 90s. Was selected in the 13th round of last year’s MLB Draft by the Nationals, but chose to return to improve his stock as a starter. That effort started really well (10.0 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 14 K over his first two starts of the year), but his last two starts have been very rough (6.2 IP, 10 H, 10 ER, 10 BB, 4 K).

RHP Nick Hoffmann (rSO) - 3-2, 5.08 ERA, 28.1 IP, 36 H, 6 BB, 21 K. The overall numbers are a bit deceptive because he got absolutely shelled last week against Pittsburgh (2.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 2 K). Has allowed a combined five 2B and four HR over his last three starts.

RHP Nick Clayton (rSO) - 0-1, 4.87 ERA, 20.1 IP, 22 H, 8 BB, 15 K. A key reliever on last year’s team who has stepped into a starters role after doing such in the Cape Code League last summer. He did toss an inning of relief Tuesday at Winthrop. Has yet to work five complete innings in any start this year.

LHP Ryan Ammons (rSO) - 0-0, 4 SV, 1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 15 K. The Tigers closer who has appeared in 11 games already this year, although he’s only worked more than a single inning in two of them. A drop-and-drive delivery provides some funk to his release.

RHP Ty Olenchuk (SO) - 2-0, 0 SV, 1.62 ERA, 16.2 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 19 K. Has really had an exceptional year outside of a bad outing last week at Pitt (2.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K). Has allowed just two extra-base hits all year. Was a starter last year as a freshman, but the move to the bullpen has been a great one.

LHP Geoffrey Gilbert (rSO) - 1-0, 0 SV, 3.38 ERA, 8.0 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 15 K. High energy dude who other teams will love to hate. The improvement of his secondary pitches has led to his fantastic year. Very good fastball.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC State and Clemson have played one common opponent, each facing off in home series with Northeastern one week apart. The Wolfpack got swept by the Huskies while the Tigers took two-of-three.

Clemson is 3-0 in one-run games this year.

For a school so close to the SC/NC border, Clemson only has two players on their roster from the State of North Carolina: redshirt sophomore outfielder J.D. Brock and sophomore utility player Cooper Ingle.

If the name Cooper Ingle sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’re thinking of Coby Ingle, a freshman pitcher with the Wolfpack last year who has since transferred out. Cooper and Coby are not related.


Prediction

Clemson has a great facility at Doug Kingsmore Stadium and the fans can make it a tough place for a visiting team. There were questions around Sam Highfill’s health after last week’s start, but he’s slated to go on Sunday in this one for the Wolfpack. If that stays true - and if he’s back to his normal self - then that’s the difference.

Outcome: State takes two out of three in a close, hard-fought series.