Tigers Take Two Saturday

CLEMSON – Back on Feb. 1, the first day of practice, Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett warned that those who felt that the offense was going to lack any sort of punch after the mass exodus of hitters from last year's team might be in for a rude awakening.

And for at least one day, they were.

The Tigers pounded out 24 hits and scored 18 runs in a 12-5 and 6-5 doubleheader sweep of Mercer in the season opener Saturday at a full Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Moreover, Clemson (2-0) blasted three home runs, which was a good sign for a team that seemingly lost nearly all of its power hitters from last season.

"I think a lot of it was a lot of guys were excited to be out there with a lot of them in their first game," said senior catcher Doug Hogan, who hit one of the three blasts. "I think the adrenaline was flowing pretty good."

Left fielder Wilson Boyd also hit one of the home runs for Clemson from the second spot in the batting order. Good hitting that spot is something the Tigers sorely need so that Hogan, who bats third, will see better pitches, which in turn will allow him to do more damage.

A big part of the output for the Tigers came from the five true freshmen that saw action in the field and at the plate.

Combined, the five youngsters went 9-for-23 (.391), with seven runs scored, three RBI, three walks and a home run.

However, the majority of those numbers came from right fielder Chris Epps, who went 5-for-7, with three RBI, four runs scored and a big home run in the second game.

"I definitely didn't think it would go this good," Epps said.

Also, Kyle Parker, who enrolled in January as a star football recruit, went 1-for-1 with a run scored.

"It was a good first day for us," Leggett said. "We saw a lot of young kids get out there and get that day behind them. I think we did pretty good offensively with all the young kids we've got."

Leggett's not kidding about all the young players on the team. There are a combined 19 freshmen and sophomores on the team.

Pitching wise, the Tigers are more experienced, but they showed some problems. This is supposed to be the area that carries the team. Instead, it was the offense.

Veteran starters D.J. Mitchell and Ryan Hinson combined to allow five earned runs in 10 innings of work.

Also, junior Matt Vaughn, who was tabbed a starter up until a week ago, allowed one run while capturing the team's first save of the season and the second of his career.

"It's different being a closer," he said. "But I really like the emotional part. When you start, you just try to keep the emotions inside."

On the injury front, outfielder and pitcher Addison Johnson missed the games as he nurses a sore hamstring. His status for Sunday is doubtful. Also, second baseman Mike Freeman jammed his right knee late in the second game and his status for Sunday is questionable.

But all in all, it was a solid two games for the Tigers, especially for the offense.

"I think we're underestimated offensively," said shortstop Stan Widmann, who went 2-for-7 from the leadoff spot. "I think we're going to be alright."

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