The series between Dallas Baptist and Clemson over the second weekend of the season stands out for a couple of reasons.
For one, it’s a series between teams that are annually in regionals. That’s been the case at Clemson for a couple of decades now, and while DBU is more of a new kid on the block in college baseball, they’ve quickly become a mainstay in postseason play. You just know the quality of play between these two teams is going to be incredibly high.
It’a also interesting because, at least to start the season, the roles of these programs are reversed. Dallas Baptist comes into the season ranked number 15 in our preseason poll, while Clemson starts the season outside of the rankings and will have to prove some things in order to get in position to enter the rankings.
The biggest question with the Tigers is their starting pitching, as they are without the four guys who got a significant number of starts a year ago in Charlie Barnes, Pat Krall, Tyler Jackson, and Alex Eubanks. In fact, if you factor in Paul Campbell, who started two games among his five appearances last year, Clemson doesn’t return a single pitcher who started a game in 2017.
The good news is that if they can find guys to replace that missing production, they have a chance to be really good, as an offense led by Seth Beer, Logan Davidson, Grayson Byrd, and Chris Williams will make up for a lot of shortcomings on the mound.
Dallas Baptist doesn’t really have any of those types of roster questions, as they return a huge chunk of their team from a year ago, a group that won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to get into a regional and then got to the final of the Fort Worth Regional.
Matt Duce, Jameson Hannah, Tim Millard, Garrett Wolforth, and Devlin Granberg return from what was an explosive, physical offense last year. The starting rotation wasn’t as good as some of those vintage DBU starting rotations we’ve seen in the recent past, but each of their starters, M.D. Johnson, Jordan Martinson, Ray Gaither, and Trevor Conn, showed a boatload of potential at different points, and they’re all back for 2018. Combined with bullpen workhorses Jimmy Fouse and Travis Stone, you have the foundation for a really, really good pitching staff.
And to top it off, the winner of the series, no matter who it is, will have a quality series win on their resume, which will be huge once we get to the end of May and the selection committee begins their deliberations. All of the above makes this a series to highlight early in the season.