Clemson Off To Best Start Since ’10
By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer
It looks like Clemson is going to be just fine after having to replace its entire rotation and top two hitters from last season.
The Tigers won two of three against South Carolina over the weekend and moved as high as No. 6 in the major polls Monday. At 10-1, they’re off to their best start since the 2010 team opened 13-1. They open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Georgia Tech at home on Friday.
“Any time you’re going into ACC play you want to feel like your team is as prepared as it can be,” coach Monte Lee said. “I think we faced some very good competition in our nonconference portion of weekend play. We played Dallas Baptist, which was top 10 in the country, and a top 25 team in South Carolina the last two weekends, and we’re 5-1 against those clubs. I feel like we’ve done everything we can to prepare our club by challenging them against high-quality competition.”
Chris Williams is batting .357 with three homers and a team-leading 16 RBIs, Patrick Cromwell is at .351 and Robert Jolly at .343. Seth Beer, the Dick Howser Award winner as a freshman in 2016 and a semifinalist for the award last year, is batting .278 with three homers and has a .462 on-base percentage.
The weekend rotation of sophomore left-hander Jacob Hennessy, junior right-hander Brooks Crawford and sophomore lefty Jake Higginbotham has combined for a 1.91 ERA and 41 strikeouts against nine walks in 47 innings over nine appearances. Hennessy is a converted reliever, Crawford was a long reliever in 2016 but last year was limited to 22 innings because of illness, and Higginbotham hadn’t pitched since 2016 because of an arm injury.
A strong bullpen has allowed Lee to limit his starters to five or six innings per outing.
“When we came back in the spring, we pitched very well,” Lee said. “I saw a pitching staff go from a concern at the end of the fall to, ‘Man, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good on the mound.’ “
Drew Wharton’s one-out triple in the ninth inning produced an 8-7 walk-off win over South Carolina on Sunday. That gave the Tigers a fourth straight series win against their in-state rival and made them 6-1 in one-run games.
“We just believe if we can keep the game close, we’re going to find a way to win the game,” Lee said. “So we’ve got a very confident group right now, a very loose group, and I’m very proud of how we’ve played up to this point.”
A look around the country:
IN THE POLLS
Florida (12-1) went 5-0 last week, sweeping three from Stony Brook at home, and remained No. 1 in the D1Baseball.com and Baseball America polls. Collegiate Baseball’s No. 1 team is Oregon State (12-0), which took four from Hartford. Florida State (11-0) is No. 3 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball; Texas Tech (13-0) is No. 3 by D1Baseball.com.
BOHM GOES BOOM
Wichita State’s Alec Bohm has hit three grand slams, including two in the Shockers’ weekend series win over Nebraska. Bohm homered in each of the three games. He’s on an 11-game hitting streak and is batting .452 with five homers and 17 RBIs.
The TCU bullpen’s scoreless streak ended with a thud in a 15-2 loss to UC Irvine on Sunday. Four relievers combined to allowed seven runs, five earned, over the last 5 1/3 innings. The 15 runs were the most allowed by the Horned Frogs since Texas Tech hung 21 on them last April.
10, OR MORE, TO WIN
Texas scored double-digit runs in three straight games for the first time since 2009 when it beat Northwestern 10-7, 16-3, 12-1 Friday through Sunday. The Longhorns (8-4) will see a higher level of pitching this week when they host Stanford (11-1) for a four-game series. The Cardinal have a 2.08 ERA, and top starters Tristan Beck (2-0) and Kris Bubic (2-0) each have combined to allow six earned runs in 35 1/3 innings (1.53).
Nebraska-Omaha’s Payton Kinney pitched a no-hitter in a 4-0 win over Ohio on Sunday. Kinney struck out nine and walked four in the Mavericks’ first no-hitter since February 2015 against Chicago State.
Cal State Northridge needed three outs to finish the win over Valparaiso on Friday when it entered the top of the ninth inning leading 13-4. Valpo scored nine runs on eight hits to tie it. Northridge won 14-13 on Joey Cooper’s bases-loaded single in the bottom half.