ACA’s Bailey Clark capitalizes on ‘huge honor’

Andrew Pearson
The Asheville Citizen-Times

Bailey Clark distinguished himself as a weekend starter for Duke University this past season.

The former Asheville Christian Academy pitcher can obviously handle a lot being thrown at him, too.

Last week, Clark was elevated from an alternate to active member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team — and just in time for a five-game Independence Day weekend series between the U.S. and Cuba which began July 1 in Cary.

“It’s a huge honor to wear the colors of this country, and even better when it’s on a baseball field,” Clark said last week.

“Two months ago, I didn’t even know what my plans were for summer ball. And now for this to happen is pretty exciting.”

Clark is a rising junior from Asheville and a sociology major in the middle of summer school at Duke. Clark began classes after going 3-0 last month in the Cape Cod League for the Wareham (Mass.) Gatemen. He had a 0.56 earned-run average and 11 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-hander mixes a fastball, slider and changeup. The velocity on Clark’s fastball has topped out at 97 mph and sat around 93-94 mph on June 29, when he threw 2 2-3 innings for USA Baseball. Against Chinese Taipei, Clark scattered one run, four hits and a walk, with four strikeouts.

“I was originally just coming back here to Duke for summer school,” Clark said last week. “But (USA Baseball) had me come over, and based off how I threw Monday, they were able to keep me on. It’s been pretty fun to go from someone who wasn’t throwing a whole lot (as a freshman at Duke) to where I am now and being in the starting rotation. It’s all gone by so fast.”

The 2013 ACA graduate developed into the Sunday starter for Duke (31-22) this past season. Clark (4-5) started 13 games for the Blue Devils and had a 2.95 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 58 innings. He limited batters to a .242 average.

Clark was named the ACC pitcher of the week in late February after throwing eight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts against Iona. He also pitched a four-hit win over nationally ranked North Carolina.

“Bailey had a great year, and these opportunities are well-deserved,” ACA baseball coach Billy Shepherd said.

“I knew coming out of high school that he was nowhere near what he was going to be. And Bailey was pretty good at the time. This is great for Western North Carolina baseball, to have a hard-working kid like this from such a great family go on to things like this.”

Clark is one of a half-dozen ACC players on the 26-man USA Baseball roster.

After the July 1 opener, the series with Cuba will be played in a pair of minor league parks (Durham on Thursday and Friday and Charlotte on Saturday) before returning to the U.S. training facility for the finale.