Clemson University

Clemson depth comes with a catch

Clemson catcher No. 17 John Nester reaches out to tag USC right fielder No. 19 Jackie Bradley after his third strike hit the dirt and he attempted to reach first as USC came back to win 7-6 at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, April 7, 2009.
Clemson catcher No. 17 John Nester reaches out to tag USC right fielder No. 19 Jackie Bradley after his third strike hit the dirt and he attempted to reach first as USC came back to win 7-6 at Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, April 7, 2009.

CLEMSON - Faced with proving himself again, catcher John Nester hopes he can pick up where he left off last season when he was one of the Clemson baseball team's most productive hitters.

After splitting the job with freshman Phil Pohl the first half of the season, Nester settled in and hit .344 in his last 40 games.

Nester and Pohl are again joined at the hip entering the season, which starts today at Doug Kingsmore against Miami of Ohio. Freshman Spencer Kieboom also could play at catcher.

Coach Jack Leggett will not say if he favors one player, but based on last season's numbers it is no contest.

"Hopefully I'll be in there more than I was last year," Nester said Wednesday. "I've been working all summer and all fall trying to get ready for it. Phil's been playing pretty well as of late, too, so whatever is going to help the team, I'll do whatever role I need to."

Entering his junior season, Nester said he has taken some balls at first base, which makes him more valuable, but with the depth available to Leggett this season it might be tough to keep everybody happy.

Clemson returns eight starters off a team that went 44-22 and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional. In addition, there are several freshmen who could have an impact.

"We've got some depth. We've got some interchangeable parts," Leggett said. "We've got some pieces of the puzzle to put into place offensively.

"We just got to keep them all busy, keep them all moving and try to play those 14, 15 guys as often as we can play them."

Nester played in 57 games as a sophomore and hit .304 with 25 runs, 11 doubles, five home runs and 33 RBIs. He started the season 7-for-40 yet finished with 16 multi-hit games and became so dependable Leggett penciled him in at leadoff.

But as a catcher, Nester has the best view of the area where questions abound -pitching.

Junior left-hander Casey Harman, who will start today, emerged as a dependable weekend starter last season. In 22 appearances, 13 as a starter, he went 7-3 with a 3.95 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 16 walks in 86 2/3 innings. After working on a curveball last year, Harman said he is fully committed to the pitch.

Losing weekend starters Chris Dwyer and Graham Stoneburner, and promising Madison Younginer of Mauldin to the pros, opened opportunities for guys such as sophomore right-hander Scott Wiseman, whom Leggett selected the starter Saturday against Michigan State at Fluor Field in Greenville, and redshirt freshman right-hander Kevin Brady, Sunday's starter against Furman.

Leggett said it usually takes nearly half the regular-season schedule before things shakes out.

"I think our pitchers are going to do a great job," Nester said. "As far as what roles they're going to have, we're not sure yet, but I don't think the offense will need to carry the team by any means."

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