Clemson heads to Columbia Baseball Regional

Not the same SC team as in years past this year in Cola, but until Jack Leggett proves he can beat them in the NCAA Tournament, I'm going to be skeptical of our chances here. Gone are the stalwarts that plagued us, and much of their more top-notch talent, but a very talented and Omaha-veteran team nonetheless. SC has won their last 8 home regionals and 24 straight NCAA Tourney games at home, Holbrook can't keep that up but it will be tough for anyone to crack it.

Clemson and South Carolina have met 303 times, with the Tigers holding a 170-131-2 lead in the series that dates to 1899. In their three-game series at three different sites earlier in the 2013 season from March 1-3, the Gamecocks defeated the Tigers 6-0 at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The next day at Fluor Field in Greenville, SC, Clemson downed South Carolina 6-3. In the series-finale, South Carolina responded with an 8-0 win at Carolina Stadium.

The Gamecocks lead 80-66-2 over the Tigers in games played in Columbia, including a 6-2 advantage and five straight wins at Carolina Stadium.

Friday, May 31
Game 1: No. 3 Liberty vs. No. 2 Clemson (ESPN3, 1 p.m.)
Game 2: No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 1 South Carolina (ESPN3, 7 p.m.)

Saturday, June 1
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 8 p.m.

Sunday, June 2
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m.

Monday, June 3 (if necessary)
Game 7: Rematch of Game 6, 7 p.m

The winner is slated to face the winner of the UNC regional. All games, with the exception of Friday, are on ESPNU and ESPN3.

RPI and recent success

Clemson is ranked #14 in the RPI with a #6 SOS. We're losers of 5 straight games after the disaster in the ACC Tournament, along with late losses to FSU to end the regular season. We had just had our best week ever in terms of wins just before the Tallahassee trip.

The Chickens are ranked #13 in the RPI with the 17th-rated SOS. SC is 11-14 against Top 50 RPI squads. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games, having just lost a series against Miss State in Starkville 2-1. Their best wins were earlier last month in Baton Rouge, when they took 2 games from LSU. SC had previously faced Liberty to open the season, winning the series 2-1, but just barely.

The Liberty Flames went 34-27 and just 13-11 in the Big South; winning the conference tournament sealed their entry into the NCAAs. Liberty is #59 in the RPI and faced the #48 schedule. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Liberty is 9-18 on the road this year.

St Louis went 40-19 and won the A-10 Tournament to gain entry into the NCAAs. The "Billikens" RPI is ranked 72nd nationally against a pitiful 185th ranked schedule. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and went 15-7 on the road this season.

Pitching Preview

The dominant pitching power isn't there, but SC pitchers hit the strike zone and stay there. They ranked 6th in fewest walks per 9 and 3rd in K/BB (3.3). They have outstanding lefty starters in Jordan Montgomery and Nolan Belcher -- they'll probably look like Koufax's against Clemson with our track record vs. LHPs. Belcher at one point struggled this year to hold his spot, but has come alive in SEC play and started every Friday night for the last couple months. Monty started out as the ace of the staff but got hurt early and has now worked his way back into form. LHP Jack Wynkoop has gotten the 3rd slot recently.

Closer Tyler Webb (16 SV, 1.24 ERA) and Adam Westmoreland (7-3, 2.81 ERA) hold the back end steady. SC's team ERA is 3.03, while ours is 3.17.

Jack made the wise decision to pitch Erwin on Friday and hold Goose back for what will likely be SC on Saturday. Crownover is supposedly full-go, but they'll have a quick hook if he even winces with that elbow. Clate Schmidt is an option, and his FSU outing gives some encouragement, but he was killed in Durham on the mound. Erwin sealing up Game 1 and going 6+ would really be nice. Look for Schmidt to get any long-relief opps, and Firth to be the main stopper in the pen. Campbell just hasn't had it of late.

Liberty's Team ERA of 4.06 is pretty bad for the new bats. Josh Richardson is the #1 starter, going 3-4 with a 2.45 ERA. Carson Herndon (3-5, 2.73), Brooks Roy (7-5, 3.39) and Trey Lambert (7-3, 3.76) are also options to start. After those 4, it gets bad, real bad. Their best hope is to be able to get to their closer, Ashton Perritt (3-1, 1.35), without losing any lead.

St. Louis is alright at the plate, with a 3.58 ERA. Alex Alemann is 6-6 with a 3.36 ERA as the #1, Clay Smith (8-2, 3.76) is the 2 and Nick Bates the 3 (8-3, 4.05). They have two stoppers in the pen in Marco Mejia (3-2, 2.81, 6SV) and Matt Eckelman (6-1, 1.79, 4 SV). This is an experienced pitching staff that returned 10 pitchers from a 41-W season last year, and both the top two starters had better seasons previously. This team is the dangerous one if the two top seeds want to choke.

Hitting Preview

South Carolina is hitting .281 with a .417 slugging percentage and .371 on-base percentage. South Carolina, who is fielding at a .972 clip and has allowed 24 steals in 41 attempts, has also totaled 91 doubles, 13 triples, 47 home runs, 45 hit-by-pitches, 30 sacrifice bunts, and is averaging 5.8 runs per game along with 53 steals in 78 attempts. They depend on the middle of the lineup to score their runs.

LB Dantzler leads the team with a .332 batting average, 15 homers, 48 RBIs, and a .445 on-base percentage. Joey Pankake is hitting .315 with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs, while Grayson Greiner is batting .291 with four homers and 35 RBIs. Max Schrock has added a team-high 14 stolen bases as well.

Clemson, who is averaging 5.5 runs per game, is hitting .278 with a .362 slugging percentage and .363 on-base percentage. Clemson, who has 250 walks against 377 strikeouts, also has 82 doubles, 15 triples, 19 homers, and an ACC-high 110 stolen bases in 149 attempts. We have a solid lineup of good singles hitters but no power.

Shane Kennedy leads the team in batting average (.317), runs (45), walks (37), on-base percentage (.413), and stolen bases (22) along with totaling five doubles, four triples, four homers, and 33 RBIs. Garrett Boulware leads the team in homers (8) and RBIs (44) along with hitting .310. Thomas Brittle (19), Steven Duggar (15), Jay Baum (10), and Steve Wilkerson (10) have added double-digit steals as well.

Liberty is hitting .266 with a .373 slugging percentage and .343 on-base percentage. Liberty has also totaled 93 doubles, 13 triples, 32 home runs, 61 hit-by-pitches, 23 sacrifice bunts, and is averaging 5.0 runs per game along with 83 stolen bases in 105 attempts.

Ashton Perritt is hitting .338 with six homers and 16 steals. Bryan Aanderud is batting .321 with one homer and 37 RBIs, while Trey Wimmer is hitting .303 with 16 doubles, three triples, four homers, and 36 RBIs. Ryan Cordell (26) and Nick Paxton (19) have added double-digit steals as well.

Saint Louis is hitting .307, 19th nationally, with a .432 slugging percentage and .388 on-base percentage. All six of their players with over 200 at-bats are hitting over .300 on the year. They’re not afraid to hit-and-run and manufacture offense, and they can also win with the long ball. Mike Vigliarolo leads the team with a .347 batting average along with 19 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 40 RBIs, and nine steals. Alex Kelly is hitting .340 with 16 doubles, 11 homers, 60 RBIs, and a .427 on-base percentage, while Grant Nelson is batting .336 with five homers, 32 RBIs, and a team-high .435 on-base percentage. Alec Solé has added a team-high 10 stolen bases as well.

Prediction

A lot of people are predicting us to upset this one, I'm not one of them. I won't do that until I see a Clemson team play loose against SC and not be stupid at the plate against their LHPs. St Louis is a team to watch here, if they can get rolling then they could be trouble. I think SC wins the Regional.

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