CLEMSON — When Charlie Barnes was growing up a Clemson fan living in Sumter, he would attend Doug Kingsmore Stadium for the best day baseball has to offer all year — Opening Day.
Barnes probably saw a bunch of wins when he was younger; Clemson started 1-0 seven straight years from 2005-11. A 6-1, 170-pound sophomore southpaw, Barnes was tabbed new coach Monte Lee’s Friday starter against Maine, for a Tigers team that has lost three of its last four season openers.
“It’s a great honor, something I’ve dreamed of for a long time growing up a Clemson fan,” Barnes said Tuesday. “I’ve been here as a little kid watching Opening Day, so it’s going to be surreal to get the chance to pitch on Opening Day and hopefully get the W for the team.”
Barnes pitches in the high 80s with his fastball, and considers his changeup an out pitch to righty batters while favoring a curveball vs. lefties. He was 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 12 appearances as a freshman in 2015, though he only started two games (both charged losses). He allowed six earned runs in 7.1 innings combined in starts vs. Winthrop and Michigan State.
In Barnes’ last six appearances of the season, all in May 2015 out of the bullpen, he was not charged with an earned run in 8.1 innings of work with three walks against 11 strikeouts.
Senior right-hander Clate Schmidt, the dean of the staff, will start Saturday in the midpoint of the Maine series. Freshman lefty Jake Higginbotham gets the Sunday start.
“We debated a little bit about which way we wanted to go, and I think all of us felt pretty good either way,” Lee said. “I didn’t think there was necessarily one reason to go with Charlie over Clate or vice versa, outside of when you set up for the weekend, when you’re facing a lefty then a righty then a lefty, as opposed to righty-lefty-lefty, it can give them a little bit of a different look.
“They’re 1A and 1B, so to speak.”
Schmidt did not sound bothered by the Saturday appointment, and Lee went out of his way to illustrate the importance of the second game in a weekend series.
“Here’s exactly how I look at it: if you win on Friday night, you can win the series on Saturday if you’ve got a really good guy going. If you lose on Friday night, you gotta get right back into the series on Saturday with a guy that can win that game so you go in Sunday with a chance to win the series,” Lee said. “If you look at teams that win a lot of games, they’re really good on Saturday, because we’re all facing the best guys on Friday nights — one mistake and you can lose that game. You gotta have a guy on Saturday that can get you right back into the series.”
Lee said junior lefty Alex Bostic will begin the season as Clemson’s closer. Bostic compiled a 5.25 ERA in 12 appearances last year. Drew Moyer (3.10 career ERA) is not expected to play this season with a shoulder injury.
“You want power stuff at the end of the game, and Bostic gives you speed up to 93-94 miles an hour,” Lee said. “He’s left-handed, he’s got a plus breaking ball, he’s an experienced guy, so we feel very good about going with Bostic at the end.”