Pat Krall turned down a six-figure signing bonus from pro baseball last summer for another season of development at Clemson.
A relief pitcher in his first two years with the Tigers, the Temple transfer became a full-time starter in his senior year.
It’s the role he hopes to fill at the next level. However, it might not be the one he fills for No. 19 Clemson in the most important weekend of the season.
The Tigers head (39-19) into the NCAA’s Clemson Regional as the top seed and face fourth-seeded UNC Greensboro (35-22) on Friday at 7 p.m. with one goal in mind: Start tournament play 1-0.
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That means Krall could return to the role that made him an All-American in 2016.
“If we’ve got to use Pat out of the pen or (midweek starter) Tyler Jackson out of the pen to help us win that (first) game when those last nine outs come in, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Clemson coach Monte Lee said. “We’re going to do everything we can to win Game 1. We want to be playing on Saturday night (against Vanderbilt-St. John’s winner).”
Clemson’s bullpen has struggled at times in the second half of the season, especially since relievers Brooks Crawford and Ryan Miller have missed time.
Both could be available for the regional, but Krall flourished out of the bullpen a year ago and might be just what the ailing Tigers need. He posted a 10-2 record, produced a team-best 1.67 earned run average and saved five games in 29 appearances (three starts).
The 6-foot-6 lefty from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, was a huge reason Clemson won the 2016 ACC tournament title and earned an NCAA national seed in Lee’s first season at the helm.
As a starter this year, Krall hasn’t been as dominant, although he did earn second-team All-ACC honors.
Krall’s 8-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 15 starts. He has 64 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings and opponents are hitting .284 off him, the highest among Clemson’s starting pitchers.
“I think, for the most part, I’ve done pretty well,” Krall said. “I’ve had some rocky times, but that’s part of being a starter. You’re going to have your ups and you’re going to have your downs.”
Lee says mapping out a plan for three games in the postseason can lead to regrets if you get “punched in the face” in Game 1, so Krall will be on standby Friday.
Clemson ace Charlie Barnes (5-4, 2.73 ERA) says that’s not easy to do. Starting pitchers get into a routine. They relax and joke around more when they know they don’t have to pitch. Knowing they could be asked to head to the bullpen at any moment to warm up means they have to be “locked in” the entire game.
Krall, though, has been through that before.
“I’m 100 percent for whatever they need from me in order to win games, because, ultimately, we’re trying to get to Omaha,” Krall said. “Whatever way I can help with that is what I’m happy to do.”