CLEMSON — The Clemson baseball team may be holding a trump card when it comes to an already dynamic offensive ball club.

His name is Justin Hawkins, a junior college transfer known as Hawk to teammates and the coaching staff.

Hawkins, a junior college transfer from USC-Sumter, was the American Legion National Player of the Year in 2015, a preseason junior college All-American in 2015 and 2016, and the nation’s No. 16 junior college prospect by Perfect Game.

“Hawk is just a country boy with power — that’s what he is,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “He’s a junior college player, a junior college transfer from USC-Sumter. He played for Tim Medlin, one of the best coaches out there. He played American Legion baseball and was the American Legion Player of the Year. He’s just extremely talented.”

Talented may be an understatement for the native of Prosperity.

Hawkins will provide an extra infielder — having played every position in the infield, minus first base and catcher — but more importantly he provides power at the plate, the likes of which Lee has yet to see in his three years as head coach.

“This kid’s got big-time power,” Lee said. “He can play second base, he can play third base, he can play shortstop in a pinch. He’s big, he’s physical, so he’s got a chance to contribute. We’ve just got to get him more consistent.

"But there’s no question he’s got more raw power than any guy out here. When he touches the ball on the barrel, it goes a long way.”

The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Hawkins amassed seven home runs, 42 RBIs, scored 44 runs, stole four bases and hit .322 over 62 games last season at USC-Sumter.

Hawkins spent last summer playing in the Coastal Plain League for the Fayetteville SwampDogs, where he hit 10 home runs, drove in 27 runs and finished the season with a .556 slugging percentage.

It is that kind of production that  combined with the 42 home runs returning for the Tigers in Seth Beer, Chris Williams and Logan Davidson  Lee believes will only add to the Tigers’ offensive prowess this season.

“He hit one over the scoreboard in a game, and the other day he hit one out of the stadium in batting practice,” Lee said. “I’m only in my third year, but with BB-Core bat, I’m yet to see one clear and leave the ballpark. … So, again, he’s pretty special when it comes to the power tool.”

Starting pitchers

The Tigers have finalized the pitching rotation for the opening series (Friday-Sunday) against William & Mary.

Clemson will send sophomore left-hander Jacob Hennessy (Moore, S.C.) to the mound in Friday’s season opener at 4 p.m. The start will mark Hennessy’s first career start as a Tiger. Saturday will see the Tigers send junior right-hander Brooks Crawford (Bishop, Ga.) to the hill for the 2 p.m. game. The Tigers will feature redshirt sophomore left-hander Jake Higginbotham (Hoschton, Ga.), who missed last season due to an injury, in the final game of the series Sunday afternoon at 3.

Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat.

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