Clemson Baseball

Two true freshmen to get opening weekend start, new role for Hennessy

February 13, 2019
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It’s game week for Clemson baseball, and with that comes the announcement of the starting pitching rotation for opening weekend.

Brooks Crawford will be the Friday starter, followed by true freshmen Davis Sharpe on Saturday and Justin Wrobleski on Sunday, head coach Monte Lee announced Tuesday afternoon.

When he was told he’d be the starter on Opening Day after his 8 a.m. class, Crawford called his parents to try and fool them saying he wasn’t going to be a starter anymore. They didn’t buy it.

“It’s something you kind of dream about,” Crawford said. “You’re looking forward to it and just kind of see what I have. I am going to go out there and compete to the best of my ability and give my team the best chance to win.”

Crawford, who pitched just over 80 innings in 2018 to lead the team, had an 8-2 record. In 16 starts for the Tigers, the senior right-hander is 15-2 in 18 starts, which puts him second in Clemson history in winning percentage. He currently sports a 3.07 ERA and did not allow more than six hits or four runs in any of his starts a year ago.

“The biggest factor was just that Brooks pitched very, very well all year long, fall and spring,” Lee said. “He’s a more complete starter right now than he has been in previous years. He had a lot of success for us last year and he’s been a workhorse… I think he is more ready to go deeper into the game now than he was in the past.”

As for the other two positions, there was a little bit of a shock that came with the announcement that two true freshmen are going to be thrown into the fire immediately.

Because that means junior Jacob Hennessy, who was Clemson’s Friday starter in 2018, will have a new role. We asked Lee how a player like Hennessy who is experienced and established took the news of what his new role will be and if he’d be a midweek starter.

“I think like anybody who has stripes on their sleeves, who has started and pitched in the bullpen, he wants to start. But I also think that Jacob is one of the best teammates you can ask for and I think he understands that regardless of his role that he is going to try and dominate his role.”
- Monte Lee on Jacob Hennessy’s new role

“I think like anybody who has stripes on their sleeves, who has started and pitched in the bullpen, he wants to start. But I also think that Jacob is one of the best teammates you can ask for and I think he understands that regardless of his role that he is going to try and dominate his role,” Lee said. “He’s going to try to do the very best he can to help us win games. He’s pitched out of the bullpen and he’s started for us, so he’s done a number of things for us.

“We certainly feel like Jacob Hennessy is going to pitch the first weekend, it’s just a matter of when. But he’ll be one of our first guys that we go to out of the bullpen. He throws strikes, he’s got three pitches, he’s got experience, so he’s going to be a very valuable piece for us to try and win the series this upcoming weekend.”

Hennessy was one of Clemson’s top left-handers out of the bullpen his freshman year and has pitched 102 innings in 40 appearances. He is sixth in Clemson history in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 3.64. In 71.1 innings in 2018, Hennessy allowed 72 hits and 14 walks but had 54 strikeouts. Opponents had a .259 batting average against him.

Hennessy in a new role means Lee and pitching coach Andrew See are very high on the talent of their incoming freshmen. Lee has already said that Davis Sharpe is an “All-American caliber” player who can play both ways. Justin Wrobleski, a freshman left-hander from Canton, Ga., is the No. 38-ranked freshman in the country, according to Perfect Game.

Lee is ready to see what his latest additions will bring to a pitching staff that became depleted toward the end of last season.

“We just felt like more than anything else that Sharpe and Wrobleski, from a stuff standpoint, they have starter stuff,” Lee said. “They have velocity. They have three pitches. And we’d like to give them that routine of being a starter early in the season so that we can map out their week and plan out their week as opposed to giving them the call in the bullpen and saying, ‘hey, get ready. You are coming in for the next hitter.’ A planned approach for these two guys will be beneficial to them.

“We also feel like they are ready and we feel like their stuff is certainly well enough to compete as weekend starters.”

© David Grooms/Clemson Sports Talk

Lee also said he doesn’t have a set lineup ready for Friday. The plan is to try out a plentiful amount of different combination, especially with what Sharpe brings playing two ways.

The Tigers play eight games in 10 days, which will give Lee a better look at what exactly he has as far as pitching depth and who can play where in the field. The head coach has not put any stock into opening weekend being a big series for this club that can’t find its way out of a home Regional.

But one thing’s for sure: we’re going to see plenty of new faces being put into the fire right out of the gate.

“I would say (opening weekend) is kind of important just to see kind of what we have as a team,” Crawford said. “We lost a lot of guys last year so we have to figure some things out like our lineup and also our pitching staff. I feel like once we kind of see what we are going with this weekend and who is throwing where, and kind of situation stuff like that, I think we will figure out what kind of a year we will have.”

Clemson opens its 2019 campaign on Friday afternoon against South Alabama at 4 p.m.

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