By Monty Taylor
During the weekend of October 14-15, the defending ACC Tournament Champions went on the road for scrimmages against Coastal Carolina and East Carolina. Among the biggest questions for Clemson this fall and heading into next season will be who replaces Caden Grice at 1B? Alden Mathes, a graduate transfer, could be one name to watch. The former Richmond Spider saw time there during Clemson’s scrimmages against ECU.
Junior outfielder Will Taylor, who hit .362 for the Tigers last season, announced he would be giving up football this year to focus solely on baseball. Taylor was a wide receiver for Clemson during his first two years on campus. Against Coastal Carolina, he hit a monster home run that traveled 441 feet.
Tristan Smith made six starts last spring for Clemson and is competing for a weekend rotation spot. The lefty sophomore looked sharp in his multiple innings against East Carolina. Billy Barlow also impressed with two scoreless innings.
Blake Wright, Jacob Jarrell, and Jack Crighton all homered in the Tigers’ scrimmages against East Carolina. Jarrell, a sophomore catcher, also homered against Coastal.
Duke, who fell just one win short of reaching Omaha last spring, faced in-state rival NC State in a double-header October 13 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Blue Devils dropped both games but showcased many of their best pitchers.
Fran Oschell III, one of the shining stars of Duke’s deep bullpen last season, looks to be transitioning to the rotation and might be tabbed to be the Friday night starter. He pitched a 1-2-3 first inning and looked as dominant as he did pitching last season and over the summer for Team USA. Some publications have him ranked as a first round draft pick next summer.
Speaking of weekend starters, Jonathan Santucci returned to the mound for the Blue Devils after suffering a season ending injury against Pitt in late March. His first inning against the Wolfpack was very good, but his command was a bit off in his second inning of work, when he gave up a pair of walks and some extra base hits. He did rack up 6 strikeouts, however.
Santucci and Oschell each pitched again against UNC-Wilmington this past Saturday and were impressive. According to Duke analytics, Santucci’s velocity averaged 95.6 against UNCW, and he had an average spin rate of 2281 RPM. He had three scoreless innings and accumulated seven strikeouts.
NC State, Duke’s October 13 opponent, has looked very impressive this fall. They withheld their top four arms against the Blue Devils, opting to showcase their vast array of new and talented arms. Talented freshmen such as Ryan Marohn, Cooper Consiglio, and Jake Bechtel shined, while SUNY-Cortland transfer Shane Van Dam and Tennessee transfer Hollis Fanning showed quality stuff.
Small school transfers Josh Hogue (Santa Fe) and Brandon Butterworth (Western Carolina) impressed. Hogue had several big hits against Duke including an RBI double off the wall while Butterworth played outstanding defense, robbing the Blue Devils of several hits.
The most impressive transfer, however, was new first baseman Garrett Pennington. The former Wichita State Shocker put on a show against Duke. In the first game he reached base four times in five appearances and was a triple shy of the cycle. In the second game he had a 2 RBI double and finished the day with three extra-base hits over the two games. His production in the middle of the Wolfpack lineup will be essential to replacing the departed Gino Groover (drafted) and Cannon Peebles (transfer to Tennessee).
Despite a large portion of their 2023 College World Series roster returning, the Virginia Cavaliers have some big roles to fill in all facets of the game. Ethan Anderson, who hit .375 last season with 41 extra base hits, looks to transition from first base to his natural catching position, replacing the departed Kyle Teel. The switch-hitting junior will be expected to maintain his offensive prowess while attempting to fill the shoes of an outstanding defensive catcher in Teel.
Indiana transfer Bobby Whalen looks set to win the starting job in centerfield and was impressive against East Carolina in their scrimmages this past Sunday. Whalen had four hits over the two games and reached base five times overall.
A duo of talented freshmen look poised to battle for spots at third base and first base. Eric Becker and Henry Ford played both games of the scrimmage against ECU and had multiple hits. Becker’s two-run double down the right field line in game two was the highlight. A third freshman, Anthony Perrotta, didn’t start either game but did see time at first base during the second game.
Jack O’Connor, the only returning member of last season’s weekend rotation, looks poised for a breakout sophomore campaign. The 6’5” righty looked dominant in his almost two innings of hitless work against the Pirates. Likewise, fellow sophomores Bradley Hodges and Aiden Teel looked particularly impressive on the mound this past weekend.
Wake Forest had a double-header against Elon this past Sunday and once again looked to be the class of the ACC. In the first game, the Demon Deacon pitching staff combined to strike out 17 while allowing just 1 hit.
Star pitchers Josh Hartle, Chase Burns, and Michael Massey all featured in the first game. With all eyes on the Tennessee transfer Burns, the junior righty struck out the side in his only inning of work on just 14 pitches. His fastball hit triple digits a few times, and his slider looked sharp.
Seaver King, one of the most highly touted transfers of the summer, shined early after hitting a monster home run in the first game. Due to his ability and versatility, it remains a bit of a mystery as to where he will primarily play in the spring. King, who is listed as an infielder, started game one in center field and game two at shortstop yesterday.
Other ACC action
Georgia Tech scrimmaged Kennesaw State this past weekend and lost, 7-5. Terry Busse and Aeden Finateri provided scoreless outings while freshman Drew Burress impressed at the plate for the Yellow Jackets.
Florida State hosted Mercer this past Friday. UCF transfer Cam Leiter made his Seminole debut on the mound and junior Jaime Ferrer homered. Florida State will head to Alabama on October 28th to complete their fall ball schedule.
After a trip to the Dominican Republic, Louisville concluded its annual intrasquad “Pizza Bowl” series between the Skeletons and Vampires ahead of Halloween.
North Carolina beat Liberty 14-1 in a scrimmage on Thursday night. The Tar Heels held the Flames to just 2 hits while Georgia transfer Parks Harbor shined with a multi-hit game which included a two-run home run.
Virginia Tech fell to Tennessee in their annual fall ball scrimmage, 8-6. Star first baseman Garrett Michel homered for the Hokies.