Experienced core, No. 5 recruiting class give Jack Leggett plenty to work with in 2013

Practice begins on Jan. 25, season-opening series just a month away

Clemson baseball - Thomas Brittle

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson baseball - Thomas Brittle

In just a month, the Clemson baseball team will open its 2013 season at home with a three-game series against William & Mary.

Practice for the Tigers begins on Friday, Jan. 25, and the team that coach Jack Leggett puts on the field promises to be both young and capable.

Strengthened by a 2012 recruiting class that is ranked No. 5 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball, the Tigers will be able to man most of their starting positions with experienced players, while providing plenty of opportunities for freshmen to make an early impact.

The group of newcomers signed by Leggett and recruiting coordinator Bradley LeCroy is rated as the ACC's best, ahead of No. 8 North Carolina and No. 9 Miami, and trails only Vanderbilt, UCLA, Arizona State and LSU nationally.

The Tigers lost position starters Phil Pohl, Richie Shaffer, Brad Felder, Spencer Kieboom and Jason Stolz off a team that finished 35-28 overall and 16-14 in the ACC.

Clemson returns four starters in first baseman Jon McGibbon, centerfielder Thomas Brittle, second baseman Steve Wilkerson, and left fielder Jay Baum. Both Brittle and Wilkerson were All-ACC performers last season.

On the mound, Clemson will be led by Scott Firth, Kevin Pohle, Daniel Gossett and Jonathan Meyer.

Brittle, Firth and Meyer, along with pitcher Joseph Moorfield, make up the Tigers' senior class.

The Tigers have eight junior players, including McGibbon, Wilkerson, Pohle, pitchers Mike Kent and Matt Campbell, outfielder Joe Costigan, and infielders Mike Dunster and Shane Kennedy - a junior college transfer. Jake Long, a pitcher, will sit out the season after transferring from East Tennessee State.

Clemson's nine-man sophomore class includes outfielders Baum and Tyler Slaton, catcher Garrett Boulware, and pitchers Gossett, Kyle Bailey, Patrick Andrews, Kyle Schnell, Clay Bates and Daniel Chewning.

The Tigers have added 16 freshmen to their roster. They include outfielders Maleek Gibson, Andrew Cox, Steven Duggar, John Mulkey and Mike Triller; infielders Tyler Krieger, Jackson Campana and Kevin Bradley; and pitchers Kyle Whitman, Brody Koerner, Wales Toney, Clate Schmidt, Zach Erwin, Matthew Crownover, Garrett Lovorn, and D.J. Reader.

Brittle, Wilkerson and McGibbon are the team's top returning hitters. Brittle led the returning Tigers last season in batting average (.298), RBIs (36), stolen bases (15), and triples (8). Wilkerson had top marks in hits (76), runs scored (49), and doubles (13). McGibbon led the returnees in homers with five.

On the mound, Firth had a 2.09 ERA last season, Pohle paced the returnees with seven wins, and Gossett led in innings pitched (77.0) and strikeouts (87).

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