CLEMSON — As the Tigers open a home series against No. 22 Virginia (14-1) at 6:30 p.m. today at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, they are developing what every program strives to create and few possess — pitching depth.
Weekend starters Daniel Gossett, Clate Schmidt and Scott Firth all have sub-2.00 ERAs. And on Wednesday against Charleston Southern, three talented freshmen combined to allow no earned runs in a 3-1 victory.
Clemson (10-5) has a 2.20 ERA as a staff this season.
Two-time Georgia prep pitcher of the year Matthew Crownover did not allow a run over six innings against CSU. He gave up just three hits, no walks and struck out two. On the season, he’s made four appearances and is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA.
Not bad for a lefty who had Tommy John surgery last March, a procedure that might have kept him from going straight to pro ball. Crownover threw 60 pitches Wednesday and in his next start he could get stretched out to 75 pitches. As a prep pitcher, he was clocked at 94 mph. He’s worked mostly with a low-90s fastball and a changeup, but worked in his breaking ball more against Charleston Southern.
“My third pitch, my curveball, was working better,” Crownover said. “It is kind of the last thing coming along. It’s good to see some progression now. Last week was a year ago that I had surgery. I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation, trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I could get back.”
He was followed by freshman lefty Zach Erwin, who throws in the upper 80s and has a big-breaking curveball that perplexed South Carolina batters earlier this month in a relief appearance.
Erwin has not allowed a run over 41/3 innings this season. He has struck out five and walked just one.
Freshman Kyle Schnell earned the save and he has a 0.73 ERA on the season.
They are competing to eventually join Schmidt, a fellow freshman, in the weekend rotation.
Clemson has a young, deep and talented staff. And with a struggling offense (.248 team batting average), the Tigers need them to develop quickly.
They’ll get a test this weekend against a Virginia team that is batting .313 as a team and has a 1.88 staff ERA.