Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee led the Tigers to a fourth consecutive series win over South Carolina over the weekend.
Lee is now 3-0 in the rivalry series as the head coach of the Tigers, while USC’s Mark Kingston falls to 0-1.
South Carolina is off to a 7-5 start to the season, but Lee expects the Gamecocks to go on to have a strong year. He sees some differences between this USC team and the one that missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
“The thing that impressed me about their lineup was how disciplined they are. They’re a tough team to pitch to because they don’t chase a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. I think they’re more disciplined at the plate right now than they have been in the past,” Lee said. “We had a hard time trying to pitch to them because they take the borderline pitch. They kind of mirror what we do a little bit on offense.”
South Carolina is hitting .265 as a team right now, a number that is hurt by Jacob Olson and Carlos Cortes struggling. Those two were USC’s top two hitters in 2017 but are both batting under .200 through 12 games.
USC is hitting for more power this year as it has 21 homers through 12 games after finishing with 58 homers in 60 games a season ago.
“I think Mark’s done a good job of getting guys to take their best swing. I think when they do swing the bat they’re more aggressive with trying to drive the baseball. They’re going to hit some home runs,” Lee said. “I see guys like (Madison) Stokes and (LT) Tolbert and (Chris) Cullen who are better hitters this year. And a lot of that comes from experience, but it’s also because I think they’re just better hitters.”
The biggest question mark for South Carolina is on the mound as the Gamecocks had to replace a pair of weekend starters and the majority of their bullpen.
Cody Morris has been up-and-down as the Saturday starter, while junior college transfer Ridge Chapman and freshman John Gilreath have gotten opportunities on Sunday.
Junior college transfer Eddy Demurias has been solid as USC’s closer, while TJ Shook, Carmen Mlodzinski and Logan Chapman are also being relied on.
“I think their starting pitching has a chance to be good. To me, just watching their team, they’ve just got to continue to develop in the bullpen,” Lee said. “But I see some guys like (Eddy) Demurias, who I think has good stuff. (Carmen) Mlodzinski, the freshman, is going to be really good for them. They’ve got guys like Logan Chapman who are going to be good. Ridge Chapman’s got a good arm. I think they’ve got plenty of options, they’ve just obviously got to get experience.”
As for South Carolina’s Friday starter, Adam Hill, Lee came away very impressed with what the junior was able to do.
Hill struck out 14 Clemson batters in seven innings, a week after striking out 14 Charleston Southern batters without allowing a hit in seven innings.
“Adam Hill, I haven’t seen a starter that good since I’ve been here at Clemson. I’m in my third year, I’ve seen some good ones. And that guy’s pretty tough. As much as we try to preach discipline there were just pitches that we couldn’t see,” Lee said. “We couldn’t get to the fastball. We had a hard time seeing the slider. He’s electric. If somebody doesn’t draft that guy in the first couple of rounds of the draft they’re missing out, because that guy’s got a chance to pitch in the big leagues. I think he’s special. He’s going to match up with anybody in the country.”