2008 GoJackets.com Baseball Preview - Clemson

With February 22nd just around the corner, it's time once again to take a look at the 2008 ACC race. The preseason polls are out and they're all suggesting a six team race for the ACC title and a chance to host regional play in the postseason. North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia, and Georgia Tech are the six teams we will take a look at in this year's review.

Jack Leggett's Clemson Tigers approach the 2008 season with quite a few unanswered questions and a lot of holes to fill from last years lineup. The Tigers suffered more loses than any team in the ACC. Nine players from last year's squad has moved on to the pros and three backup players have transferred. They'll also be without the services of pitcher Josh Trailkill out with a hip injury.

INFIELD – The Tigers will have to replace three members of last year's starting infield with the loss of Andy D'Alessio, Taylor Harbin, and Marquez Smith. They will be bolstered by the return of shortstop Stan Widman. Widman missed all but 6 games of last season. D'Alessio hit .319 with 50 RBI, Harbin .296 with a team leading 62 RBI and Smith hit .336. All three were on the all-ACC team. Ben Paulsen will replace D'Alessio at first. Paulsen hit .258 last in 2007. The second base job will go to sophomore Mike Freeman. J.D. Burgess could also see some action at second. He hit .236 in 2007. Widman returns at second and should be the leader of the infield. He appeared in the first six games of 2007 before missing the remainder of the season. Freshman John Hinson will open the season at third. Mike Sanders could also see some time at third.

OUTFIELD - All-ACC Brad Chalk is the lone outfielder missing from last year's team. Brad hit .366 in 2007. Wilson Boyd will open in left. He hit .285 for the Tigers in 2007. Addison Johnson returns as the centerfielder. Johnson hit .286. He may also be called upon to close for the Tigers. We may see three different players in right this year. Freshman Chris Epps, sophomore Alex Lee, and freshman Jeff Schaus all could start during this season.

PITCHING – The Tigers lost five main components of their staff from last season. Clemson will have to replace, Daniel Moskos, David Kopp, P.J. Zocchi, Alan Farina, and Stephen Clyne. Moskos, taken fourth in the draft, was 3-6 with a 3.29 ERA in ten starts. He started the year in the bullpen. Kopp was 6-3 with a 3.79 ERA in 18 starts. Zocchi has a 4-2 record in 9 starts. Clyne and Farina were two of the mainstays of the bullpen. They each appeared in over 30 games. Ryan Hinson returns as the anchor of the weekend staff. Hinson was 6-2 with a 2.74 ERA. He'll be joined by D.J. Mitchell. Mitchell was 5-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 7 starts. The starts for the remainder of the three positions will be divided among Graham Stoneburner and freshmen Casey Harmon, Craig Guillickson, and Trent Rothlin. Stoneburner missed the 2007 season with a knee injury. Matt Vaughn will start the year as one of the closers. Doug Hogan returns as the starting catcher and one of the top hitters on the team. Hogan hit .350 and had 13 homers in 2007. The Tigers lost two of their backup catchers when Buddy Munroe transferred to Florida and Alex Burg to Washington State. Football quarterback recruit Kyle Parker enrolled early and should be one of the DH's as well as backup catcher and first baseman. Tim Morris has transferred to St. Johns where he'll be their DH.

OUTLOOK - The Tigers will face an uphill battle this year to match last year's second place finish in the Atlantic division. The loss of 9 players to the pros will be hard to overcome. Look for Clemson to start slow as they try to find the right combinations for their starting lineup and pitching staff. If they are successful in doing this, they could challenge Wake Forest and North Carolina State for the runner up position behind Florida State. Clemson comes to Atlanta May 9-11 for a three game series with Georgia Tech.

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