Clemson Baseball has Game 1 Starter, Sort of

CLEMSON, S.C. — New Clemson baseball coach Erik Bakich did not officially name Ryan Ammons as his starting pitcher for Friday’s season opener against Binghamton, but he gave a pretty big hint.

“Just looking at a guy like Ryan Ammons, moving him from the closer role to the starting role. We didn’t move him to that role to start on Tuesdays,” Bakich said Tuesday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. “His makeup, his character, his toughness, his work ethic, his leadership, that is the type of guy you want setting the tone every single weekend.

“So, I suspect you will see him on Friday.”

Though Ammons was one of the ACC’s best closers last year, and he has been one of Clemson’s best relievers the past two years, Friday will mark his first collegiate start. However, that does not concern Bakich or pitching coach Jimmy Belanger. Back in the summer, they began discussions about bringing Ammons along as the Friday starter.

“Ryan is one of our most talented pitchers,” Bakich said. “We just want him to impact a game, consistently, as much as he possibly can. We all know that a closer is a very important role, but there are times when you have such a big lead you don’t need to get to the closer or whatever the case may be.

“So, just getting one of our best arms to have that consistency of knowing that he is out there week in and week out, in the same role. He has really taken to it.”

Last season, Ammons ranked fourth in the ACC with eight saves, while recording 27 1/3 innings of work. He led the Tigers in games finished on the mound, saves and opponent’s batting average.

Ammons allowed just two of the 12 baserunners he inherited to score. In 15.1 innings of work in the ninth inning, he gave up just four runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out 25 for a 2.35 ERA.

“Before, it is like, ‘Go get hot. You are in there in five minutes.’ Now he has the full starter’s routine,” Bakich said. “But, I think, his mentality is the same. The mentality is he is going to go out there and close the first inning. Then he is going to go out and close the second inning and then third and to do that as many times as he can. I think that is the right mindset because that is one of his biggest strengths.”

First pitch for Friday’s game against Binghamton is set for 4 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. Bakich said he will announce this weekend’s rotation and his starting lineup later in the week.

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