Fall Baseball Update

CLEMSON – If there's one thing Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett hates, it's the word potential. And considering the Tigers are ranked as high as third in the country in some preseason polls as fall ball comes to an end, that word is likely to get used a lot.

"When someone says we have potential, you can just punch me in the face," he said. "To me, that means we haven't accomplished anything yet. … I don't care what year it is or who we lose this program is always going to be in the hunt. Anybody who jumps off the bandwagon and gives up on these kids with how hard we play and wonders if we're going to be a good team and competing again to get to Omaha is always going to be wrong. … But you can't ever think because you're ranked high that you've got it figured out, either.

However, as the Tigers finished up fall practice last weekend, they are certainly closer to reaching their ultimate goal then they were a year ago at this time. This fall, Leggett and his staff could concentrate on the little things, rather than having to start from scratch.

Last year, there were tons of fresh faces everywhere. This year, it is a team comprised of veterans, with a few new players sprinkled in.

"This fall things went a lot quicker and smoother and the transition was faster," Leggett said. "The major goal of the fall was to try and figure out what everybody is capable of doing and help the team win. I think that's the biggest thing that is a concern.

"Number two is to try and bring the team together and build the team so that they understand what effort is required in practice every day and working on the fundamentals. … So, there's a lot to be accomplished in the fall and I feel like the practices were very well organized and the kids were receptive. A lot was accomplished in the fall and I really feel good about what happened."

For a team that finished one game from reaching the College World Series last season, that means a lot. Leggett said there is tons of confidence with this team, and considering the players that are returning, the players that are newcomers, and the one that rejoins the team after missing all of last season due to an injury, it's easy to see why.

Jason Berken, who would have been the team's number one starter on a stellar staff last season, but Tommy John Surgery prevented him from pitching. He's 100 percent healthy and all indications are he will lead one of the deepest starting staffs in the country in Josh Cribb, Stephen Farris and David Kopp.

The top new pitcher is Steve Richard, a transfer from Maine, who compiled a 9-1 record with a 2.07 ERA last year. He has asked Leggett to be the team's closer, which was a committee last year.

"He certainly has a chance to fill that role," Leggett said. "He's got the stuff to do it. We've just got to get him experience in doing it. He wants to do it. … We can still win without it. It helps to have a guy who can really excel in that role, there's no question. But I don't think that's what's going to make or break this team."

Offensively, Leggett is pleased with the early production everyone is showing. With the loss of designated hitter Kris Harvey and his 25 home runs, Leggett isn't counting on one particular person to fill that void, although newcomer Marquez Smith will likely start as the team's designated hitter.

"That's what happened every year since I've been here, you lose someone and somebody else comes in and has a great year for us," Leggett said. "I expect everybody to step up and have a better year than they had last year."

And if they do, go ahead and book your reservations for Omaha.

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