Penciled-in already as the ace of the pitching staff and the presumptive Friday night starter, junior right-hander Daniel Gossett believes the time is propitious for the Clemson baseball team to return to Omaha and the College World Series.
And while such stated goals are easily proffered during the preseason, Gossett makes the case that things have fallen into place for the upcoming season in terms of the Tigers’ depth and talent, and that there’s also a precedent to be considered.
“We didn’t go to Omaha for three years in a row, and every four years, at least, under Coach (Jack) Leggett, Clemson has been to Omaha,” said Gossett. “So that’s a little more incentive, and we can’t be that one team that didn’t go to Omaha. It’s been long enough. I’ve never been, and I don’t think anybody on the team has been, so now it’s time. It’s time to go, it’s time to win.
“Anything less than a National Championship is a disappointment. Two years in a row to go down to Columbia and lose out in the regional, is an obvious disappointment. So this year, we’re definitely looking to go to Omaha and win it. As is everyone else, though I think that this year we have a real chance.”
What makes that optimism more than perfunctory - and besides the fact that the Tigers are returning numbers and experience at virtually every position - is as simple in Gossett’s view as good team chemistry.
“We’ve all been around each other for two, three, four years, and we have somewhat of an advantage now with our camaraderie and teamwork,” said Gossett. “That’s only going to help, and it makes us feel better, because it’s a starting point and we’re not starting from ground-zero.”
Gossett also points to the influence of the team’s talented freshmen as conducive to maintaining the desired level of internal competition.
“Every time out we’re trying to get the job done, and if we can’t do it that day, we know we have someone that’s going to give us a little drive and a little push,” he said. “They’re fighting for our position, and we have to fight as much as we can to keep our position.”
Last season Gossett had a 10-4 record and a 2.56 ERA in 16 starts, and earned second team All-ACC honors. A 2014 preseason All-American, Gossett is 16-7 with a 3.34 ERA for his career at Clemson, and last year won the Stowe Award, which recognizes the Tigers’ most valuable pitcher. Possessed of one of the better breaking balls on the staff, Gossett served as the Friday starter from start to finish in 2013, and Leggett confirmed the importance of that experience.
“It’s of great value to us,” said Leggett. “The Friday night guy has got a tremendous load to carry on his back, and he’s always facing somebody else’s Friday night guy. Everybody else has got a Friday night guy, so it’s not like we’re the only one that’s got a good pitcher on Friday. So he’s always going to be in a battle, and it’s always going to be a close ball game, and he’s always going to be in a situation where he’s got to pitch well, and we’ve got to play extremely well for him to get a W.
“But knowing that he goes out there for us in the first game of a series is nice, because you know he’s going to battle and he’s going to give you everything he’s got. He’s going to throw strikes and he’s going to compete, and he’s got pretty good stuff. He would be our opening day starter if we started playing today. For sure, he’s earned it, and he’s one of those guys who shoulders that responsibility very well.”
Gossett welcomes the challenge, and has invested in his own personal improvement over the past summer and during the fall training season.
“Winning is the goal every time out,” he said. “Everybody I face is going to be geared up and ready to go, so I have to train and prepare, and be ready to win. That’s the goal, and anything less is a disappointment.
“That’s the idea, to get better every time out. This summer I trained with our strength coach. I feel like I made a step each time I got the ball, and if I can keep making those steps, it’s a confidence boost. That’s what you’re working for. You’re working to get better and you can’t get complacent. You have to stay hungry.”