Reason for Optimism

With a plethora of returning talent, there is plenty of reason for optimism for Clemson baseball in 2006.

Yes, the Clemson baseball team finished just one game from making the College World Series, but in all actuality, the number of people that thought the Tigers would come that close at the midway point of the season were few and far between.

Clemson, behind some exceptional starting pitching, as well as hot bats by the majority of the lineup, was one of the hottest teams in the county at the end of the regular season.

It was a run that surprised many, but delighted all.

And that's why fans and coaches are anxious to get the 2006 season underway. The Tigers are expected to be a preseason top-10 team and many prognosticators feel Clemson will have what it takes to make a serious run not just for a trip to Omaha, but toward a national championship.

The Tigers return two-thirds of their starting weekend rotation in Stephen Faris and Josh Cribb. Add to that the return of Jason Berken, who missed all of 2005 due to ‘Tommy John' surgery and whom many feel will be the best pitcher on the team, and Clemson will likely have the best starting rotation in the ACC.

The key to the Tigers' pitching staff, however, will be whether or not they find a consistent bullpen.

Jeff Hahn, who was regarded as the main closer the second half of the season by head coach Jack Leggett, was inconsistent at best. And he graduates.

Daniel Moskos and Drew Fiorenza look to be the primary candidates for the closer position. If one of the two doesn't separate himself from the other, Leggett may have to use a bullpen-by-committee tactic.

Defensively, don't be surprised if there are some changes in the field next season. While all of the position players are scheduled to return, it shouldn't come as a shock if a few players change positions.

Expect to see incoming junior college transfer Marquez Smith in the outfield somewhere, with the most likely choice being in center. If that happens, Brad Chalk would move to right or left, with either Travis Storrer or Tyler Colvin becoming the designated hitter.

Hitting wise, Taylor Harbin and Andy D'Alessio will be counted on to help fill the absence of the likely departing Kris Harvey, who cranked 25 home runs and drove in 70 RBIs this year.

"We've got a good future with this team," Leggett said. "We've just got to go back and continue to work hard and, hopefully, be a step or two better." Top Stories