JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – East Tennessee State University baseball (9-11) begins Atlantic Sun Conference play this weekend with a three game series against Stetson University at Thomas Stadium. The Bucs have been on a 20 game non-conference campaign leading up to this point, and look to start A-Sun competition strong with the help of – what might be — college baseball’s most under-rated yet most versatile player, LHP/OF Clinton Freeman.
College Baseball Central spoke with Freeman Friday before the Stetson contest, in an attempt to help open the books on his remarkable collegiate career.
Freeman stands 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 195 pounds. Freeman is one of the most intriguing players in Division 1 baseball that you’ve probably never heard of. The Bucs’ senior was named a 2014 Preseason Louisville Slugger First Team All-American and A-Sun Pitcher of the Year by Collegiate Baseball.
Freeman, a Jonesborough, Tenn. Native, leads the team in hits (29) and doubles (7), and is batting .349 with one triple, two home runs, and 20 RBIs. Capping off his hitting stats is a monstrous .530 slugging percentage that he obtained while starting in all 20 of ETSU’s games. That makes Freeman one of college baseball’s hottest players.
“My main thing is hitting,” Freeman promptly points out. “I think my swing is as good as it’s been right now. I am seeing the ball good, but it’s my approach at the plate that is what is most important.”
Freeman is fresh off a big time game Wednesday where the slugger went 4-for-6 with four RBIs and also earned a six-out save at West Carolina. Oh yea – he’s a beast on the mound as well.
Freeman started the season as the Friday night starting pitcher, but the combined work of pitching on the weekend and trying to prepare for a starting role, along with hitting preparation was taking a toll mentally and physically. Head coach Tony Skole, who is in his 15th year at the helm, decided to move Freeman to the closer role to keep things representative.
“I was just trying to survive,” Freeman stated. “Last year I started to fit in to the closing role well. My fastball has been good and its helped me take on a leadership role with the team as well. I am going to figure out a way to get this team where it needs to be.”
Something that Freeman was adamant about in speaking with him was coach Kyle Bunn, and how he’s had an impact, not only with himself, but with the pitching staff as a whole during his three years as the pitching coach. Ever since becoming pitching coach in 2012, the Bucs have airmailed the third and fifth lowest ERA’s in program history. Last season their 4.13 ERA was third and the 4.40 ERA in 2012 was fifth.
“As the year moves along, we get better as a team,” Freeman added. “That helps me keep an aggressive approach at the plate and on the mound. We have a lot of young guys behind me and ahead of me in the lineup so their growth helps me be better.”
It’s amazing what Freeman is doing — if you take in to account — that in over 23 innings pitched, Freeman leads the team in strikeouts (20) and saves (3). He is virtually the best player on both sides of the ball for the Buccaneers.
To truly understand the “diamond in the rough” comparison you have to examine last year’s performance (which all indications point towards a repeat this year). Freeman Earned CollegeBaseballInsider.com/Louisville Slugger All-America accolades, together with also being selected second team All-Atlantic Sun.
He headed the Buccaneers in just about every single offensive classification, in addition to being one of 25 players put on the watch list for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.
His totals last year were staggering, leading all Bucs in batting average (.335), hits (80), doubles (18), triples (4), home runs (10), RBIs (57), and slugging percentage (.569).
Freeman’s exploits on the mound as a starter were perplexing as the LHP went 7-1 with a 3.04 ERA (19 ER/56.1 IP) in addition to eight saves in 25 appearances in which three of those he started.
Through the course of 22 relief appearances, the lefty went 6-0 by way of a 0.65 ERA (3 ER/41.1 IP) as well as converting on all eight of his save opportunities
Somebody better watch out, this guy is a real life Roy Hobbs, and like Max Mercy said “ How can somebody this good come out of nowhere?”
Maybe some College Baseball Central love will get him on the radar.