Clemson staff 1-2 punch off to strong start

Crownover: 'It's probably one of the best pitching staffs we've had here in the last five years.”

Clemson's Matthew Crownover throws a pitch during the Tigers' 5-3 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson.


Mark Crammer Independent Mail

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson's Matthew Crownover throws a pitch during the Tigers' 5-3 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. Mark Crammer Independent Mail

CLEMSON - Daniel Gossett is Greg Maddux – and Matthew Crownover, Tom Glavine.

Or if you're a Yankees fan, more like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte back in the day – at least on a smaller scale, the Clemson teammates of the ace 1-2 punch joke.

On the opening weekend, junior righty Daniel Gossett's strong five-inning effort was spoiled by bullpen struggles. He allowed a single earned run, with four strikeouts to a walk, but took home the no decision.

Coming off from the buzzkill starter, lefty sophomore Matthew Crownover struck out a career-high nine batters without a walk to earn the win.

"That's what Andy Pettitte would do with the Yankees," Crownover said. "Roger Clemens would get beat in the playoffs and he would come back get them a win. Goose pitched well. We played well. When you get beat on a Friday night game and play well, it's a downer.

"You have to be able to create some energy as a pitcher out there and get them going."

Gossett became Clemson's first 10-gamewinner since 2002 last season, but pitching coach Dan Pepicelli paced him early with the hook after 71 pitches.

Crownover battles for win

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"Obviously (wanted to stay in) because I love to compete," Gossett said. "I understand where Pep's coming from. It's the first game of the year. Don't want to hurt anybody.

"I'm pleased, yeah – excited, no. It's the first game of the season so you can't expect too much. It's good to go out there and show I can pitch in front of a crowd. Be pretty successful. There's obviously a lot I can work on."

In his second season removed from Tommy John surgery, Crownover says he's starting to regain his dominant high school form.

Rated the No. 7 left-hander out of Ringgold High (Ga.) by Perfect Game, he was the GHSA player of the year his sophomore and junior seasons, anchoring a state title-game run in 2010.

Saturday against Eastern Michigan, he posted a 0.69 WHIP against right-handed batters, ringing up eight of his nine strikeouts. After operating on a pitch count much of last season, he threw a career-high 102 pitches, and remarkably, without a base on balls.

"I felt better as the game went on," Crownover said. "That's a sign, before I got hurt that's how I usually felt. I felt more natural again. The biggest thing for me is getting back on the mound and being able to repeat my delivery more and more.

"Hopefully I'll have 17 or 18 more starts in me and end in Omaha."

Next up this weekend is Maine, which stole a game at Miami over the weekend and did the same their last visit to TigerTown in 2012. Crownover is focusing his efforts on controlling his rediscovered velocity, closer to 90 MPH on the fastball than where he was around 80 last season.

"The ball is moving again," said Crownover. "When your elbow is a little tender, it's hard to get on top of the ball to create sink. Last year I kind of ran into that. This year, I worked really hard in the weight room and with coach Pep in trying to get some horsepower back in my game.

"We like where the horsepower is and now we're trying to rein it in consistently throwing strikes early in counts."

Despite issues here and there, Clemson’s pitching staff set down 27 batters, while walking only four. The 3.86 team ERA ranked 11th among ACC peers after the weekend, but they countered with a decent 1.21 WHIP.

“I don't expect Goose to lose too many games,” Crownover said. “I've got a lot of confidence in our bullpen and Goose and in Jake (Long). It's probably one of the best pitching staffs we've had here in the last five years.”

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