Clemson heads into its home regional Friday in the same position it was in during a late regular-season slide.
Starting catcher and power hitter Chris Williams is still dealing with a nagging shoulder injury that will likely keep him from playing behind the plate this weekend.
Tiger head coach Monte Lee said Tuesday that Williams’ right shoulder was stiff after testing his throwing arm Monday.
“I would anticipate him not being able to play a position this weekend with where we’re at,” Lee said. “He’s pretty sore. He can’t stretch his arm out. It’s really just trying to get his range of motion back.”
The junior from Garden Grove, California, hasn’t caught a game since May 6, when he injured his shoulder sliding into a base.
Williams wasn’t made available to the media Tuesday and was not participating in the early portion of Clemson’s practice.
Because of his injury, Williams would be a liability with runners on base as he’s not able to get enough velocity on longer tosses.
“(Williams) can’t throw the baseball with any kind of speed,” Lee said. “You’ve basically got to stop your arm and push the ball.”
Lee hopes Williams will be able to serve as the designated hitter when the top-seeded Tigers (39-19) take on UNC Greensboro (35-22) at 7 p.m. Friday.
His injury has been a big blow to the team. Clemson has won just four of its 12 games since May 6, and Williams only started in the lineup in one of those victories.
He’s also 2-for-22 at the plate during that span and missed three games, while pinch-hitting in two others.
Williams, who also sat out the first eight games of the season with a hand injury, has put up impressive numbers when healthy. He and Seth Beer have a team-leading 14 home runs each and 51 RBIs apiece. Williams has hit .270 and owns the highest slugging percentage (.592) on the squad in 46 games.
Before the injury, Williams had eight hits in his previous five games and had homered in three of four contests.
“When you take a big bat out of the order it can be difficult,” Beer said. “If he’s ready to go and healthy enough to play, then we’ll be excited to have him, but I think he makes just as much of an impact on the bench.”
He is a team leader and has been integral in working with Kyle Wilkie, a freshman who’s filled in at catcher recently.
Wilkie, though, is hitting .184, and he’s while he’s showing improvement behind the plate, it takes a lineup spot away when Williams moves to DH. Lee had previously used that role to play Robert Jolly (.286) or give regular outfielders Beer and Reed Rohlman a break on defense.
“He’s one of the best catchers in the country,” starting pitcher Charlie Barnes said. “That’s something we take for granted, just how good he is back there and how good he is in the lineup. He’s a spark for our offense and makes everyone better.”
Clemson NCAA regional
▪ No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 UNC Greensboro, 7 p.m.
▪ No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. No. 3 St. John’s, noon
Where: Doug Kingsmore Stadium, Clemson