Clark Gives Tigers More Options

CLEMSON – Famed prognosticator Nostradamus couldn't have predicted the future of Sean Clark any better than what Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett did prior to the start of the season. "He can be a surprise for us this season because not too many people know much about him," Leggett said.

"But he has an excellent curveball and excellent control with great instincts on the mound."

Some five months later, Leggett's predictions came blatantly true when the red-shirt junior pitched the game of his life in the most important game of his life, the ACC Tournament Championship against N.C. State last Sunday.

Now, after being a non-factor all season, Clark is set to join the postseason roster, something that seemed impossible just two short weeks ago.

"I would say it would be tough to keep him off," Leggett said. "The hardest thing I have to do is figure out the 25 guys. He's put me in a tough position now, because he's done everything we've asked of him."

Prior to his eight strong innings against the Wolfpack, where Clark allowed only four hits, it would have been very difficult to find even the most ardent of Clemson baseball fans that even knew he was on the team.

In fact, half the time he wasn't. Clark had never been on the traveling roster.

Clark, a transfer from Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona, underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder in 2004, which sidelined him for the entire 2005 season. He started throwing again later that fall, but he didn't have the strength or accuracy required of a pitcher at the high level of the ACC.

"Early on, I was just a little bit inconsistent," Clark said. "I'd throw good one day and it'd hurt for a couple of days. It kind of threw the throwing program off a little bit."

Nonetheless, he continued working hard in the bullpen until he and the coaching staff believed he was ready to hit the field and throw in a real game.

"I was just waiting for a shot," Clark said. "I'd been throwing a lot of bullpens and working with the pitching coach and just taking care of everything I needed to do."

However, the game appearances didn't go that well. In six games, he pitched 7.1 innings and allowed five runs.

"There were times it was frustrating," Clark said. "It was hard to come out here everyday and hope for a shot and go home at the end of the day and I didn't get my chance."

Clark was given one more shot at pitching on Senior Day, which was set to be his final action in a Tigers uniform. Having graduated in May with an economics degree, Clark was prepared to join the working world.

He actually had to cancel interviews that were scheduled during the week of the ACC Tournament.

His parents had made the trip from Los Angeles in hopes of seeing him pitch and Leggett didn't disappoint them. He pitched Clark for one inning on the final day of the regular season and his performance opened some eyes.

Clark pitched one inning, allowing no runs and striking out two. His curveball never looked better.

"He got out there, he got an inning and he looked sharp and crisp," Leggett said. "He came off the field and we go, ‘Hmm. Maybe we need to give him another look.'

"That inning probably catapulted him into another chance."

That opportunity came just a few days later when after right fielder Travis Storrer sprained an ankle. His injury opened up a roster spot for the ACC Tournament and it was given to Clark because a team can never have enough pitchers in long tournaments.

"We've always seen something there, but we really haven't had the opportunity to throw him out there," Leggett said. "In the limited opportunities he was given, he really didn't have a chance to show what he could do."

The title game was the only game left and Clark had yet to see the field in Jacksonville. But on the way to the game Sunday morning, Clark received the big, big news that he was going to start in the Championship game.

Clark said he didn't have a chance to get nervous because he didn't have time to think about it. It was get to the park, get dressed and hit the field. There was no waiting around.

Right from the outset, it was evident Clark was at the top of his game. His enticingly slow breaking ball, which is his best pitch, was perfect and nearly untouchable.

Before he knew it, Clark had given Leggett eight innings and helped stake Clemson to an insurmountable 8-1 lead.

"I was really hoping that we'd get five good innings out of him and then move on," Leggett said. "He got some outs and he got some things going early in the ballgame and he just kept on rolling. Let's get six. Let's get seven. Let's get eight. He was kind of in a zone."

Clark, who hasn't determined whether he's returning to Clemson next year for his final season of eligibility, now just hopes his playing career is extended three more weeks and that he can help the Tigers reach their ultimate goal of reaching and winning the College World Series. Top Stories