Clemson NCAA Regional Preview/Gamethread

CU AD Preview - Baseball America Preview

No games are scheduled to be on TV this weekend.

Schedules - Double Elimination format

On Friday, June 3, Big South Champ Coastal Carolina (41-18) will face Big East Champ UCONN (41-17-1) at 3:00 PM. Both teams have stated that they will roll out their #1 starters, both of whom will be high MLB Draft picks. This is greatly advantageous to us.

Clemson (41-18) will face NE Conference Champ Sacred Heart (34-22) at 7:00 PM. We have never faced this team.

Games on Saturday and Sunday will also be played at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM.  Loser plays loser first on Saturday in an elim game, then the winners in the nightcap. This happens again Sunday and then whomever is left faces off until its over, even until Monday if necessary.

RPI and Recent success

The Tigers are ranked seventh in the RPI, and have won 27 of their last 33 since a 14-12 start. We faced the 5th-ranked SOS according to WarrenNolan. Coastal is ranked #40 in RPI with a #37 SoS and has won 16 of their last 19. UConn is #46 in RPI and won the Big Least by 3.5 games with a 22-7 conference record, but faced the #90th-rated SOS. St. Johns was the other Big East team to get in the NCAAs. Sacred Heart is #84 in RPI.

Not exactly a bunch of patsies when you consider the pitching that UConn and Coastal have. UConn has the starting pitcher and an OF projected as 1st round picks, with a 2.85 ERA as a team. Coastal has 3 starters with sub-3.00 ERAs and a team 2.85 ERA too. Sacred Heart did defeat UConn earlier this year.

We can be beaten by these guys, so you won't see me bitching about the schedule like Cockfans are, as usual.

History

This will be the 13th time Clemson has played host to a regional. The Tigers have advanced to the Super Regional nine of the 12 years the NCAA Tournament has had this format and Clemson's program has an overall record of 108-77 in NCAA Tournament play. This is Clemson's 36th NCAA Tournament appearance, now tied for fifth in NCAA history with Southern California.

Pitching Preview

Baseball America did a MLB Draft Prospectus for the State of Sakerlina, and this is what was said about Coastal Carolina's ace starter.

Anthony Meo, RHP, Coastal Carolina (Originally From Rhode Island)

Meo was part of a stacked 2008 prep class in Connecticut and Rhode Island, a group that included Vanderbilt's Jason Esposito and UConn stars Matt Barnes and George Springer. Meo threw 91-92 mph in high school but has bumped his fastball up to 96 mph in college, regularly sitting in the 93-94 range. He's quick-armed and live-bodied at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, with a lean frame that hasn't added much weight over the years. His curveball is quick and short with downer break, and he's starting to harness the command of both pitches. Meo's changeup remains "underdeveloped," as one scout put it, and while his delivery isn't maximum effort, it's not smooth either. He throws strikes but doesn't locate enough to have the command clubs look for in starters. He should go out in the first two rounds as a starter but likely will wind up as a reliever.

Coastal Carolina Top Starting Pitchers
Throws Name Rec ERA IP H R ER BB K
RHP Anthony Meo 9-3 2.21 102.0 82 30 25 29 108
LHP Matt Rein 9-2 1.78 70.2 51 19 14 14 42
RHP Josh Conway 8-1 2.49 72.1 63 24 20 20 68
LHP Jim Birmingham 3-2 3.74 53.0 42 26 22 26 40

An outstanding pitching staff awaits this weekend tournament. The stats this group has put up, even considering the relatively weak competition, are outstanding. A team 2.85 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 2.57:1 is phenomenal for college ball.

Their bullpen is just as deep with only two regularly used guys with ERAs over 4.00. This is a deep pen with a good mix of arm slots and sides. Josh Conway is a power pitcher and Meo has a mid-90s fastball and vicious slider, while Matt Rein is a finesse pitcher from the left side who could give us problems. Meo threw a no-no in the Big South Tournament last week and is scheduled to pitch Friday. RHP Ryan Connolly is a key closer with Jordan Coons, and both have sub-2.00 ERAs in 40+ IP.

Clemson and Coastal Carolina have met 46 times, with the Tigers holding a 39-7 lead in the series that dates back to 1986. On April 5, 2011, the Tigers defeated Coastal Carolina 5-4 when freshman pinch-hitter Jon McGibbon lined a walkoff single in the 10th inning to score Brad Miller. The Tigers lead 29-5 over the Chanticleers in games played at Clemson.

Sacred Heart Top Starting Pitchers
Throws Name Rec ERA IP H R ER BB K
RHP Troy Scribner 9-2 3.69 92.2 108 39 38 20 44
LHP Nick Leiningen 7-3 3.68 80.2 74 35 33 26 38
RHP Kody Kerski 2-4 4.76 64.1 65 45 34 29 32
LHP John Hermanson 6-1 3.43 42.0 40 20 16 23 24

Leiningen has thrown 7 CG this year, Scribner 4, and Kerski 1 last weekend. However this is not a deep bullpen and they don't have many power pitchers. They have no regulars with ERAs below 3.00, and only 4 below 4.00. Schifano, a senior righty, has a team-high three saves in 50.1 innings pitched over 13 appearances (seven starts).

UConn Top Starting Pitchers
Throws Name Rec ERA IP H R ER BB K
RHP Matt Barnes 11-3 1.12 112.1 62 21 14 28 105
LHP Greg Nappo 9-2 2.71 79.2 63 36 24 35 47
Bob Van Woert 4-1 2.01 40.1 36 12 9 18 28
LHP Brian Ward 5-1 3.27 52.1 44 22 19 24 51

UConn's pitching is exceptional as well. Be thankful that our pitching has turned it on in the second half of the season. All-American Matt Barnes leads the rotation with an opp BA of .162. He'll put that fastball inside as well against the aluminum, as he's hit a team high 14 batters this year in 15 starts. He's slated to pitch Friday. The #2 is RS Senior Greg Nappo, who will almost certainly pitch Saturday.

Closer Kevin Vance has 13 saves in 27 2/3 IP and a microscopic 0.98 ERA, with just 5 walks allowed thus far in 2011. Setup men David Fischer (2-1, 1.77 in 45.2IP) and Dan Feehan (2-2, 2.64 in 40.1IP) have been stellar as well. They have a few guys in the back of the pen who've been roughed up, but the majority of the innings are eaten up by starters and most of them are quite good.

The staff has allowed just 17 home runs and 211 walks against 419 strikeouts, good for a 1.99-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Clemson Top Starting Pitchers
Throws Name Rec ERA IP H R ER BB K
RHP Scott Firth 4-1 3.27 44.0 36 23 16 26 33
RHP Dominic Leone 6-2 3.38 61.1 46 25 23 28 68
RHP Justin Sarratt 7-2 2.40 75.0 64 26 20 13 60
RHP Jonathan Meyer 5-2 3.31 68.0 55 26 25 19 63

Jack announced earlier this week that Jonathan Meyer was still limping on the wounded knee and that he was being scratched as a possible starter until at least Monday, if at all. We would need him for the Supers so there is no reason to push him here unless we absolutely have to do so. Scott Firth has been announced the starter for Friday with Leone and Sarratt to follow. Firth was very inconsistent early on this year but went 3-1 in his 6 starts this year.

Kevin Brady (2-0, 1.69 ERA) will be used exclusively from the bullpen, and I don't expect to see him starting again this year. He said last week that he doesnt expect to start again this year either. I'm hopeful we get to see Kevin Pohle (5-1, 1.19 ERA) go against some more quality hitting, because I see him as a starter for us next season with (at least) Sarratt leaving.

Clemson's team ERA has dropped from 3.87 following the UNC sweep to 3.12 here at the end, now that Weismann has been moved to the closer to solidify the back end of the pen. David Haselden has a 5-1 record, which includes three saves as well as a 2.12 ERA in 23 appearances.

What worries me most about our pen is the lack of LHPs. Lamb has been weak and JoMo is purely situational. This lack of LHP hasn't killed us like I thought it would this year, but here in crunch time we do need more than a situational lefty.

Hitting Preview - Top hitters



Brad Miller, SS, Clemson (Originally From FL)

Teams pursued Miller out of an Orlando high school, but his signability pushed him to the 39th round. He started at shortstop for most of his first two years for Clemson, and spent the last two summers with USA Baseball's college national team. After failing to register an extra-base hit in the summer of 2009, he hit .441 last summer with four doubles and a home run. Miller kept hitting this spring, especially after returning from a broken finger. He led the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting (.431) and on-base percentage (.536), earning ACC player of the year honors despite an odd approach that evokes Craig Counsell. He holds his hands high to start his stance, and while he doesn't always get his hands into an ideal hitting position, he has excellent hand-eye coordination and keeps his bat in the strike zone a long time. He's been inconsistent defensively, including 31 errors as a sophomore, and has had inconsistent throwing mechanics. He has been steadier this spring but probably fits better at second base. He's a solid-average runner, if not a tick above-average, and has good baserunning instincts. He's a baseball rat with good makeup.

The Gamecocks had the upper hand last year in Omaha, beating Clemson twice en route to the state's first national title in baseball, but the Tigers have more pro talent and should produce more draft picks. Will Lamb will be the toughest call, as he has a pro body that scouts are eager to see in pro ball. He's tall and lean at 6-foot-6, 175 pounds, and has good athletic ability. He's the center fielder for the Tigers and had a better offensive season in 2011 (hitting .344 though with limited power) than in 2010 (.289, four homers), despite this year's lesser bats. Lamb's a fine defender as well and is an above-average runner (he hadn't hit into a double play all year), and scouts who believe in his power could send him out as a center or right fielder. He has told scouts he prefers to hit. More likely, he'll go out as a pitcher, where he has flashed two plus pitches. In shorter stints, Lamb uses his long levers and athleticism to flash 94-95 mph fastballs and a slider with bite and power. As a starter, though, he sits average or fringe-average with his velocity and babies his slider. His arm works and his delivery is sound, leaving scouts to believe Lamb could take off if he concentrates on pitching. Questions about his competitiveness and consistency make him more of an unknown than many of his peers. He could go out as soon as the fourth round.

Clemson's other wild card is righthander Kevin Brady, who in addition to being a redshirt sophomore also missed 70 days with a forearm strain. Brady made three starts in February and March and was outstanding. He struck out 19 while walking one in 12 innings against Eastern Michigan and Michigan State, giving up just six hits and one run. Then he started against South Carolina, striking out four more in four innings while giving up only one run. But he had to leave that start and didn't pitch again until May. He was up to 93-94 mph in his first start and showed good velocity in his return out of the bullpen, sitting 90-92 in one-inning stints in the ACC tournament while adding a cutter. He's also thrown a curve that at times has 12-to-6 action and was a solid-average pitch early on.

Like Brady, righthander Scott Weisman was expected to be a fixture in Clemson's rotation after he led the team with nine victories in 2010. Unlike Brady, he wasn't hurt, just ineffective. He's stocky at 6 feet, 190 pounds, and he was much more effective out of the bullpen, limiting opponents to a .128 average entering the ACC tournament. Weisman's sinker reaches 93, and his slider helps him get groundballs, but neither pitch gets a ton of swings and misses. He added a cutter this year that gave him a different look.

Two 2010 Tigers draft picks, infielder John Hinson and outfielder Jeff Schaus, have persevered in spite of the less-potent bats. Schaus, a senior, has limited athleticism and should be a solid organization player. He's a smart, polished hitter who knows the strike zone and should have power. After hitting 28 homers the previous two seasons, though, he had none in 2011. Hinson has better athleticism and tools, as he's a plus runner despite a back injury that caused him to take a medical redshirt in 2009. He's rough around the edges defensively, having stumbled at second and third base this season. He fits best as a utility player who focuses on the outfield, and some scouts soured on him after he turned down the Phillies as a 13th-round pick.

Clemson has several other draftable players in senior outfielder Chris Epps, who has arm strength and power but swings and misses too much; athletic second baseman Jason Stolz and catcher/DH Phil Pohl, who fit better as senior signs next season. Pohl is a solid hitter whose ability to go behind the plate could get him drafted.

Just to pick out a few hitters and team stats, since theres so much to sift through here.

 

Team Cumulative Statistics
BA R/g 2B HR RBI SLG% BB OBP SB/ATT Ks
Coastal .277 6.5 119 47 344 .426 229 .371 99/114 393
Clemson .319 7.1 120 43 373 .458 280 .405 101/133 355
Sacred Heart .311 5.8 86 14 283 .397 165 .371 64/88 268
UConn .306 6.3 119 32 344 .424 217 .382 122/160 311

Coastal lost much of the power at the plate they had in the lineup from last season's Super Regional run, and didn't start playing well again until the 2nd half of the season, like CU. Their average is still surprisingly low for them, to me at least.

Coastal's Big South player of the year Tommy La Stella (.391/.471/.641, 11 homers, 63 RBIs) and Daniel Bowman (.275, 12 HR, 56 RBI) provide power in the heart of the order, while senior center fielder Scott Woodward (.363/.496/.533 with 30 steals in 34 tries) and shortstop Taylor Motter (.285, 21 SB) bring speed, athleticism and strong defense to the middle of the diamond. Coastal's offense might not be as high-powered as it was a year ago, but it can still beat opponents a lot of different ways, ranking 16th nationally in stolen bases (99), 24th in homers (47) and seventh in sacrifice bunts (77).

Sacred Heart ranks 18th in the nation in batting (.311), led by seniors J.J. Edwards (.380), M.J. Schifano (.337) and Steve Tedesco (.335), who comprise the top third of the batting order.

Notice UConn's SB statistics, they go and go often. 5th nationally in SB. They also have 30 sacrifices as a team, which with the good averages makes up for the lack of star pop. The leading hitter, All-American George Springer, bats .361 with 12 homers and 74 RBI with 31 steals. That guy is lethal. They have 4 guys batting ~.330 or better, and most are upperclassmen, so its not a one-man team.

Brad Miller was named All-American by Collegiate Baseball this week, as well as a finalist for The Golden Spikes Award, the Baseball Heisman. I expect him and the rest of the team to hit well enough to win this weekend. We have enough patience at the plate and a ton of LH batters for them to deal with

Prediction

I do feel good about this series. I think UConn and Coastal can give us a run with their pitching, but we're playing well and I don't see us losing twice at home. I think Clemson loses once, has a nail biter, but makes it to the next round.

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