Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Unofficial Scorer’s All-Wolfpack Baseball Team 1981-2016 — DH/Utility

This is the ninth post in The Unofficial Scorer’s All-Wolfpack Baseball Team, 1981-2016. Today, we look at designated hitters and utility players.

This is the one spot on this team that includes a bit of fudge factor. I included a DH-Utility player specifically for players who moved around the field throughout their career and never found a regular defensive position. This left me with several close calls to make. Lots of players play multiple positions early in their career, only to settle into one spot at some point and play that position for the bulk of their career. Matt Camp is a perfect example. He played left field and third base as a freshman, then saw time at shortstop and second base as a sophomore before an injury opened up center field for him. He played center field the rest of his career and is a center fielder for the purposes of choosing this team. Others moved around and saw extensive playing time at multiple positions. Those are the players I had in mind for DH-Utility. There also were players who mostly saw their name on the lineup card as a designated hitter. They’re included here as well, for obvious reasons.

To recap how this team was selected, current players and players who finished their eligibility prior to 1981 were not eligible. Players who began their college career before 1981 but finished in 1981, ’82 or ’83 were eligible, with their pre-1981 achievements more or less grandfathered into this. This affected several players from the 1981 and ’82 teams.

At the end of the day, both objective analysis and subjective opinion played a role in determining who made this team. I’ve taken painstaking care in going over this to make sure I’ve included everyone who is worthy. If, however, I left off a deserving name, it was wholly inadvertent. And if your favorite player did not make this team, it was not intended in any way to diminish that player. NC State has had more than its share of great players. I couldn’t list everyone.

Coming Wednesday: Starting pitchers.

• DH-Utility — Pat Clougherty, C-1B-LF-DH (1991-94)
If not for Pat Clougherty, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with a DH/Utility position. Everyone else considered here could have been slotted in at some other spot and no one would have been the wiser. Clougherty, on the other hand, more or less made this position a necessity. A football and baseball star at Raleigh’s Broughton High School and an 11th-round pick by the San Diego Padres in the 1989 MLB draft, Clougherty surprised many by spurning baseball and accepting a football scholarship to Furman. Knee injuries curtailed his football career to the point that after one semester in Greenville he transferred back home to play baseball at NC State. After sitting out the 1990 season, Clougherty joined the Pack in 1991 and made an immediate impact, leading the team in batting average (.378) and slugging percentage (.668) while hitting 11 homers and driving in 49 runs on a team loaded with offensive talent. His numbers tailed off a year later, yet he still contributed to NC State’s 1992 ACC championship by hitting .298 with 14 doubles, eight home runs and 43 RBIs. After getting thrown out three times in four stolen-base attempts as a freshman, he succeeded eight times in nine tries in ’92, and was an effective, if occasional, basestealer the remainder of his career. He earned all-conference for the first time in ’92, making the All-ACC second team. Clougherty’s best season came in 1993, when one of the greatest teams in program history spent most of April and May ranked second or third in all the national polls, winning a then-school-record 49 games. The team’s unquestioned offensive star that year, Clougherty led the Pack with a .368 average, 88 hits, 16 doubles, 21 home runs, 80 RBIs, and a .707 slugging percentage. He stole eight bases in as many attempts. His 80 runs driven in rank second in school history, while his 21 homers rank sixth. He earned first-team All-ACC from the league’s coaches, second-team All-America from the American Baseball Coaches Association, and third-team All-America from Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. He belted 21 more long balls as a senior in ’94, batting .317 with 12 doubles, 65 RBIs and four steals in five attempts, earning second-team all-conference. Because of his balky knees and subsequent lack of mobility, Clougherty was never a standout defensively at any position. He was a catcher in high school, and saw action at catcher, first base, left field and designated hitter with the Wolfpack. No matter where you put him, however, you had to have that bat in the lineup. He finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in home runs with 61 and RBIs with 237 (now 2nd to Jake Weber’s 239). He is one of just four NC State players ever to hit 10 or more home runs in a season three times, and is one of just two, along with Turtle Zaun, to hit 20 or more homers in a season twice. He is the only player on both lists. He hit 63 career doubles (4th in school history), had 294 hits (6th), scored 195 runs (7th), walked 118 times (tied for 7th), and amassed 548 total bases (3rd) for a career slugging percentage of .633 (4th). His career on-base percentage was .429, giving him a most healthy career OPS of 1.062. Despite his lack of foot speed, he managed to steal 21 bases in 26 attempts, and was 20-of-22 on the basepaths from 1992-94. In addition to compiling big numbers, Clougherty was the ultimate team leader, a tough guy who thrived in the big moments under the bright lights. His game-winning eighth-inning single off of UNC’s Paul Shuey, a former high school rival and future star reliever with the Cleveland Indians powerhouses of the late 1990s, made for big headlines in the local papers in 1991. And it was Clougherty’s seventh-inning homer that provided the go-ahead runs in an elimination game vs. a mouthy Wright State team in the 1994 NCAA Mideast Regional in Knoxville. The Raiders had beaten the Pack 14-12 in the tournament opener and weren’t shy about talking about it. They jumped to a big early lead two days later and again were enjoying themselves immensely when the Wolfpack stirred to life in the middle innings. Clougherty’s bomb concluded a stirring NC State comeback, and as he rounded second base, he reportedly told the suddenly subdued Wright State shortstop, “We play nine innings in this league.” Clougherty, in fact, played nine innings every time he put on the uniform. In fact, he never took an inning off.

• Second Team — Jeff Pierce, LF, 1B, DH, RHP (1990-91)

We discussed NC State’s Dutchess County pipeline in the entry for Jake Weber, but the fact is that former NC State coach Ray Tanner and his staff did a nice job of recruiting the entire Northeast. Among the noteworthy players that Tanner and staff unearthed from the snow belt were Tom Sergio, Scott Lawler, Tim Tracey, Shawn Senior, Vinny Hughes, Gary Shingledecker and Jake Weber, to name a few of the most noteworthy. Add the name of Jeff Pierce to the list. From the tiny hamlet of Staatsburg, N.Y., in rural Dutchess County, Pierce came to NC State from Dutchess Community College in the fall of 1989 as a largely unheralded recruit. Unheralded or not, he made an immediate impact, both at the plate and on the mound. Pierce’s main claim to fame was his hitting. As the scouts say, the bat will play, and Pierce’s bat played big. The man had a short, quick stroke that generated line drives and home runs. In two seasons, he batted .364 with 38 doubles, 32 home runs, 141 RBIs, a .438 on-base percentage and a .630 slugging percentage, fifth-highest in program history. He also worked 33 games as a pitcher, making seven starts and tossing 92 innings while compiling a 10-2 record with a 4.89 ERA. Pierce earned second-team All-ACC honors as a senior by batting .370 with 19 doubles, 19 home runs and 77 RBIs. That RBI total is tied for fifth in the school record book. His 171 total bases that season rank seventh in school history and gave him a .665 slugging percentage for the season. Pierce’s biggest day in an NC State uniform came on May 18, 1991. In a 27-3 blowout of Rider at Chapel Hill’s Boshamer Stadium, Pierce hit four home runs, none of them cheap, and drove in 10 runs. Each of his home runs that afternoon was more prodigious than its predecessor. On the mound, Pierce had a solid repertoire of pitches, threw strikes and kept the ball down. Many area scouts who watched his career thought more of his pitching than his hitting, although none thought enough to draft him after his final season in 1991. The Chicago White Sox signed Pierce as an undrafted free agent following the draft, and he reached the big leagues in 1995 for a brief stay with the Boston Red Sox.

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