Opening day reinforced preseason beliefs about Clemson baseball — the Tigers would be better at preventing runs than scoring them.
Clemson’s pitching and defense performed well in a 2-1 loss to Alabama-Birmingham on Friday, but Clemson’s offense lacked pop, missing five starters from last season, including ACC Player of the Year Brad Miller.
“I’ve been concerned about (offense) all along, trying to replace those five guys,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “But this is our team and we have to continue to get better.”
UAB starter Dillon Napoleon limited Clemson to four hits and one run over seven innings.
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Napoleon allowed little solid contact, using a 88 to 92 mph sinking fastball and a changeup to keep Clemson hitters off-balance. Spencer Kieboom’s RBI double in the second inning was the hardest contact made off Napoleon.
UAB also pitched around Richie Shaffer, the team’s top power threat, when Clemson put runners on second and third in the second inning, showing the importance of finding other run-producing bats.
Leggett noted Clemson made 13 flyouts.
“We’ve got to keep the ball out of the air,” Leggett said. “It doesn’t do you much good to put the ball in the air with these bats and the way it carries. We have to do a good job hitting the ball on the ground (because) we have speed.”
There were some encouraging signs for Clemson.
Freshman second baseman Jeff Baum showed some power. Jason Stolz looked comfortable back at his natural shortstop position and Shaffer made a diving stop and accurate throw in his first action at third base.
Most encouraging was Kevin Brady’s start after the junior right-hander was limited to seven innings last season after straining his right forearm in March against South Carolina. Brady pitched into the sixth inning before being pulled by Leggett after throwing 73 pitches, 44 for strikes.
Brady allowed one earned run on four hits, walked two and struck out four in five-plus innings of work. The two walks surpassed Brady’s walk total of last season when Brady walked one batter in 23 innings while striking out 33.
Brady’s velocity was back to last year’s form, sitting in the low 90s. Brady also let loose his curveball, but he did not have a third pitch Friday.
“I felt like it went pretty well,” Brady said. “There’s a couple things to clean up like my location. I was just kind of drifting forward. I wasn’t able to stay back on my back leg. …. (The curveball) felt good, but I have to keep working in my changeup.”
Clemson announced it will play a doubleheader today instead of playing games through Sunday. The doubleheader will begin at 11 a.m.