CLEMSON — Tyler Krieger is not an ordinary freshman. He is not an ordinary shortstop. It is his maturity that allows him to be great at both.
The first-year player is attempting to hold down a position that has been filled by some of Clemson’s finest baseball alumni, and he is doing it with zero experience at the collegiate level. Krieger is fully aware of the aura guys like Khalil Greene, Brad Miller and Bill Spiers have helped craft over the years, and he is eager to begin a quest to have his name mentioned in the same breath with those former Tiger greats.
“It’s a great honor,” Krieger said. “It’s something that you dream about when you’re little, and you come out and watch these guys. I’m really blessed to have the opportunity to do this. That’s something you can’t forget every day.”
Krieger is part of a widespread youth movement happening within the Clemson baseball program. Of the seven players that have started in each of the Tigers’ first ten games, three are new faces in the program. Krieger and right fielder Steven Duggar are both freshmen that have become entrenched in the starting lineup.
One might think chemistry may be an issue with such an influx of new bodies, and in baseball, chemistry is essential to good defense. But the Tigers’ defense has, for the most part, been a strength of the team this season.
Clemson is averaging less than an error per game so far, and Krieger has been one of the main standouts for the club. The Johns Creek, Ga., native has yet to commit an error in 51 chances (41 assists, 10 putouts) in his career. He credits the immense preparation that takes place during the week for his success, as well as the success of his teammates.
“I think it starts at practice with the repetitions that we get,” Krieger said. “Every single day we trot out there, we feel like we’re the most prepared defense in the country. We take more ground balls, and we’re really prepared.”
Head coach Jack Leggett says defense is something the Tigers should be able to “hang (their) hats on” early in the season, particularly given the question marks in other places. As youngsters and new bats continue to get acclimated to a new level of pitching, and as pitching roles are more clearly defined over time, defense will need to be Clemson’s calling card, with Krieger and others leading the way.
“We’ve been playing good defense,” Krieger said. “We’ve just got to keep pitching and catching the ball. The bats are going to come around, and I think it’s going to be exciting when they do.”
As the season progresses, chances are Krieger will commit an error at some point. There is a good chance a play will be missed at shortstop. But the Tigers and their young defensive standout will be content to ride out this career-opening streak for as long as they can.