Clemson will hold its first full-squad practice of the 2018 season on Friday as the Tigers begin preparation for year three under Monte Lee.
Since he arrived from the College of Charleston, Lee led the Tigers to back-to-back seasons of 40-plus wins during his first two years in the Upstate, and Clemson has hosted a regional each of the past two years. Lee is hopeful the Tigers can take the next step and advance to a super regional and College World Series in 2018.
“Clemson had not hosted a regional since 2011, so we hosted regionals, we were a national seed in 2016, we hosted a regional last year… That’s pretty good in college baseball,” Lee told The State. “Is it where we want to be ultimately at the end of the year? No. We came up short on both accounts, because I know that obviously the expectations are to get to Omaha, and that’s where we’re trying to get to.”
On paper the Tigers have a lineup capable of making plenty of noise.
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Clemson returns one of the best hitters in the country in Seth Beer, as well as catcher Chris Williams and shortstop Logan Davidson.
Beer was named an All-American following the 2017 season, while Davidson was named a freshman All-American.
Beer, Davidson and Williams finished with double digit homers last year, led by Beer, who had 16 homers and 53 RBIs.
“I’d venture to say I don’t know too many programs that are going to have a better three-headed monster than Logan Davidson, Chris Williams and Seth Beer,” Lee said. “That’s three All-American caliber hitters. Now some pieces around those guys have to step up and do some things.”
There are plenty of question marks on the pitching staff.
The Tigers lost all three weekend starters in Charlie Barnes, Alex Eubanks and Pat Krall, as well as midweek starter Tyler Jackson.
Those four combined to start 61 of Clemson’s 63 games in 2017 and threw 380 1/3 of Clemson’s 569 2/3 innings.
“We’ve got some young players that are very talented. But we did lose four of our starting pitchers. That’s a lot of innings to replace,” Lee said. “We’ve got to find three guys on the weekend that can consistently get us into the sixth and seventh inning where we can turn the ball over to our bullpen.”
Clemson returns closer Ryley Gilliam, who went 3-1 with four saves and a 2.57 ERA last year. If it can get consistent starting pitching and get Gilliam the ball with a lead late the Tigers should be in contention to return to Omaha in JUne for the first time since 2010.