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Clemson freshman Kevin Pohle looks to induce ground balls with two-seam fastball

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CLEMSON -- Even with the new offense-suppressing composite bats, pitching to contact seems counterintuitive in college baseball. Just watch batting practice, or if you are a freshman pitcher like Clemson's Kevin Pohle, do not watch batting practice.

For Pohle, pitching where batters can hit the ball is how he will succeed at Clemson and perhaps in the future at the professional level.

Pohle is one of Clemson coach Jack Leggett's prized freshmen, along with middle infielder Steve Wilkerson and first baseman Jon McGibbon. Pohle is considered the team's top rookie arm because of one pitch: a sharp-breaking, two-seam fastball allowing him to target the heart of the plate without apprehension.

"I've always been a pitch-to-contact, groundball kind of guy and then the strikeouts come if they are going to come," Pohle said.

Pohle debuted last weekend against Eastern Michigan, allowing one run over 3 2/3 innings. He didn't walk or strike out a batter. Eastern Michigan struggled with Pohle's darting 88-90 mph fastball. The lack of strikeouts does not bother Pohle, who figures to earn more work as Clemson (2-1) returns to action this weekend against Cincinnati at 4 p.m. today. The Tigers will play Charleston Southern at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Clemson, and Michigan State at 1 p.m. in Greenville on Sunday.

"The more I get groundballs the longer I stay in the game and the faster these guys get off the field," Pohle said.

Clemson pitching coach Dan Pepicelli raves about Pohle's two-seam fastball.

"Coach (Pepicelli) said the reason I'm here is because of my two-seamer," Pohle said.

The pitch is of such quality the right-hander does not often need to mix in his developing slider and changeup to retire batters -- at least not until conference play. The pitch helped Pohle to rank as the No. 2 right-handed pitcher in Missouri (333rd overall) by the Perfect Game scouting service last year. Pohle was visited by one major league baseball scout, but was not drafted.

Pepicelli said Pohle could earn a midweek start if he continues to throw as he has through fall and winter intrasquad games.

Still, Pohle is not perfect. At 6-3, 170 pounds, he needs to get stronger. He still needs to develop secondary offerings, but his potential has the Clemson staff encouraged.

"We gotta see him once we get into conference and get going a little bit," Pepicelli said. "But he's exciting."

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