CLEMSON – While position battles mark the lineup and rotation, Clemson coach Jack Leggett didn’t hesitate on Friday’s opening day starter, sophomore right-hander Daniel Gossett.
And in turn, Gossett is confident he won’t hesitate on the mound against William & Mary, after leading the Tigers in strikeouts (87) in stints as a starter and reliever as a freshman in 2012.
“I learned (last year) that you can’t give college hitters too much credit,” Gossett said. “I know that sounds weird or arrogant. As a pitcher, you can’t be too perfect. You’ve got your stuff and what makes you, you…
“You can’t be up there throwing scared. It’s going to affect your mechanics (and) your mindset.”
That said he is mindful of the nerves that come with starting the opener and getting the first crack at cementing ace-of-the-staff status.
“It’s a huge honor obviously,” said Gossett. “I’m just trying not to think too deeply about it. It’s just another game. I know if I get inside my own head – I become my worst enemy.”
Getting the ball as the No. 1 guy is no small thing for the righty hurler, raised a Tigers fan and going to school just up I-85 at Byrnes High School in Duncan.
“I definitely came to as many games as I could growing up,” Gossett said. “My parents used to get season tickets. I always wanted to be the Friday night guy since I was eight years old.”
Leggett says that carries over to Gossett’s on-field performance.
“He loves Clemson,” Leggett said. “It’s where he always wanted to go to school. He’s worked extremely hard…You know you’re going to get 100 percent when you see Daniel Gossett on the mound.”
Gossett said he’s added a circle changeup to his pitches, inspired by what he saw this offseason from East Tennessee State transfer and T.L. Hanna product Jake Long.
“I knew that was something that was lacking from my game previously,” Gossett said. “I’ve seen how effective it can be. I saw (Long) come in here, and first day out, absolutely diced with a changeup.”
For the rest of the weekend, Leggett said the plan is for sophomore right-hander Patrick Andrews to start on Saturday (2-3, 5.52 ERA last season) and senior righty Scott Firth (4-0, 2.09) Sunday, against the Tribe. Neither one started a game in 2012.
Sophomore right-hander Kevin Pohle is still rehabbing from injury, after starting 14 games last season and leading the Tigers in wins (7). Leggett said it will take a few weeks for him to get “100 percent healthy.”
A little under a year removed from Tommy John surgery, freshman left-hander Matthew Crownover has been impressive in workouts and will factor in a couple innings at a time starting this weekend, per Leggett.
The Clemson coach says it isn’t how hard Crownover throws, but how he throws it that sets the Ringgold, Ga. native apart.
“(He) just knows how to pitch and get you out,” Leggett said. “I think he feels confident with what he’s been doing and I see some good things coming out of him real soon.”
Along with pitching coach Dan Pepicelli, Gossett – just a year removed from the freshmen experience himself – has been active in leading the array of young arms like Crownover.
“I’ve been letting them know that their stuff is good enough,” Gossett said. “There’s a reason they’re at Clemson and there’s nothing they need to change.
“Coach Pep has got them where they need to be and they’ve shown in the scrimmages that they can be effective.”