CLEMSON — Clemson coach Jack Leggett knew it would be difficult for his youth-laden baseball team to produce runs this season.
Much has been made of the loss of slugger Richie Shaffer, a first-round draft pick, and college baseball’s offense-depressing bats.
But the bats have also turned Doug Kingsmore Stadium from a neutral park into a pitcher’s paradise. All these factors conspire against Clemson’s ability to produce runs, and thereby reduce the team’s margin for error.
“Nothing’s been easy,” Leggett said. “Power numbers are tough to come by for anyone in this park, with these bats.”
Nothing has been easy, in fact, power has been historically low thus far for Clemson.
As Clemson (13-7, 3-3 ACC) prepares to host a three-game series with Duke (11-10, 2-4) this weekend, the Tigers have eight home runs through 20 games. At that pace, Clemson will finish the season with 25 homers. The Tigers have not hit fewer than 30 home runs in a season since 1974, when they hit 26. In 2002, former Clemson star Khalil Greene hit 27 home runs and teammates Michael Johnson and Jeff Baker each hit 25.
The Tigers are slugging .360, which would put them on pace to finish with their lowest slugging mark since 1971. Clemson has slugged below .400 as a team just twice since 1974.
“As I told the team, we can be better offensively, take less pitches,” Leggett said, “be more aggressive.”
Perhaps as temperatures warm in April and May the Tigers will enjoy an uptick in offense.
Perhaps sophomore catcher Garrett Boulware has found his swing after homering twice against N.C. State ace Carlos Rodon earlier this month, and hitting his team-best fourth home run against Morehead State this week.
Leggett hopes to get more power from first baseman John McGibbon, who is slugging .272, and JUCO transfer Shane Kennedy, who is the only other Tiger with multiple home runs (2).
Despite the low offensive output, Clemson is scratching out wins because of a pitching staff that has a 2.92 ERA — Clemson hasn’t had a team ERA below 3.00 since 1992 (2.86) — and a defense which leads the nation in double plays.