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Super Regional Preview: Clemson hosts Alabama

Alabama Crimson Tide (41-23, 15-15 SEC, 12-14 Away) vs. Clemson Tigers (41-22, 18-12 ACC, 27-8 at Home)

Two very close teams when you look at the stats and how the season has gone. Bammer started off 16-1 and we started off 17-2. They fell apart and out of the rankings and so did we, and somewhere in mid-May things started turning around a little for both. Both teams are fairly well-balanced.

NCAA Tournament Brackets

Clemson AD Series Preview -- Alabama AD series preview 

It will be the Tigers’ ninth super regional appearance in the 12 years of the format, which ranks 4th nationally. Since 1999, Clemson has missed playing in a super regional just three times (2003,04,08). Clemson has been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 1987, with the exception of the 2008 season.  In terms of all-time wins in regional and super regional play, Clemson has 91, seventh-most in NCAA history.

Clemson has advanced to Omaha in all three previous years (2000,02,06) that it hosted a super regional. The Tigers are 39-8 all-time in home NCAA Tournament games, including a 36-6 record under Head Coach Jack Leggett. Clemson is 25-2 in NCAA Tournament games at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in the 21st Century, with the only losses coming in a super regional game against Arkansas in 2002 and a regional game against Oklahoma State in 2009.

Clemson and Alabama have met 23 times on the diamond, with the Crimson Tide holding a 12-11 lead in the series dating back to 1919. The two teams last met in the 1996 College World Series. The Tigers eliminated the Crimson Tide with a thrilling 14-13 victory in one of the most memorable games in Clemson baseball history. I still have this Billy Koch game on tape I think.

Alabama is one of five SEC teams to advance to this weekend's NCAA Super Regional. Joining Alabama are Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The five Super Regional teams are the most by any conference. The ACC had four teams, including Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Virginia.  The SEC and ACC account for nine of the 16 teams still playing for a national championship.

The Tide has won only three road regional's (1950, 1983 and 2010), including its win over Georgia Tech in the Atlanta Regional last week. The Crimson Tide is 33-27 (.560) in NCAA Regional on the road. Alabama is 4-9 (.308) in actual road games in NCAA Tournament play. Alabama advanced to the NCAA Super Regional's for the third time and the first time since 2006. The Crimson Tide is 2-2 in Super Regional play, with a series win over LSU (1999) and a series loss to North Carolina (2006). The 2010 Super Regional is the first one on the road for the Crimson Tide.

Last Week:

Alabama beat GT 10-8 in the finale of the Atlanta Regional to get here, after beating them 8-1 to force the final game. They lost the first game against GT 5-2 for their only loss of the weekend. In the Regional, they also defeated Elon 11-2 and eliminated Mercer 5-3.

Alabama lost the SEC Tournament in the final game 4-3 to LSU in 11 innings. They defeated Auburn, Ole Piss, and Florida to get to the championship game. This team is pretty hot coming in, having swept Tennessee and taking two of 3 against a pretty good Ole Piss team before that in regular season play.

They lost 2 of 3 to the Cluckers in Cola at the start of May. They had taken 2 of 3 against Auburn at home earlier this year.

Clemson defeated Auburn 2 of 3 times to win the Auburn regional, and defeated Southern Miss 10-1 behind Scott Weismann. Clemson beat SC 2 of 3 at the start of this season, and went 1-3 against GT with the only win coming in the ACC Tournament.

Weekend Starters:

Saturday, 6pm: ESPNU

Throws Player Rec ERA IP H R ER BB Ks
RHP Jimmy Nelson 8-3 3.92 103.1 101 51 45 28 94
LHP Casey Harman 7-2 3.96 100.1 91 47 44 31 86

Jimmy Nelson went in the 2nd round to the Brewers. Harman dominated Auburn last week, allowing only 3 guys to get past 1st base.

Sunday, 7pm:  ESPN2

Starters have NOT been announced for Games 2 or 3 for either team, so these are just educated guesses. Weismann will start for sure in my opinion, assuming it goes 3 games. Bamas better hitters are right-handed. 

It could be Lamb, Leone, or Firth otherwise. I'm going to guess Firth since he's right-handed. It doesn't seem that Pepsicola has confidence in Leone lately.

Alabama successfully tossed out Nathan Kilcrease (RHP) and Adam Morgan (LHP) in the regional round, and if Kilcrease isn't used as a reliever I believe we'll see him as a starter. I would bet though that they throw out the Lefty against our LH-dominated lineup.

Throws Player Rec ERA IP H R ER BB Ks
LHP Adam Morgan 7-4 5.52 88.0 106 55 54 30 72
RHP Scott Weismann 7-2 5.13 86.0 90 60 49 30 69

Monday (if necessary), time not set (1 or 7pm): ESPN2

Throws Player Rec ERA IP H R ER BB Ks
RHP Nathan Kilcrease 8-2 2.42 93.0 70 27 25 19 81
RHP Scott Firth 2-1 3.58 32.2 43 21 13 12 25

Lamb has a 4-4 with a 4.96 ERA in 49.0IP, Leone is 2-1 with a 4.89 ERA in 49.2 IP.

If Bama goes lefty, and/or if Kilcrease pitches in the first two games, it would be Jonathan Smart (2-1, 5.72 in 39.1 IP) or Taylor Wolfe (3-2, 6.13 ERA in 39.2IP). Wolfe started a game against GT last week. They don't have a consistent 3rd.

Hitting Comparison

Team Batting Statistics
Clemson .306 .405 10.89 8.77 136 12 87 504 343 .494 100-123 446
Alabama .298 .389 10.32 7.06 115 13 62 411 269 .446 67-91 444

Pretty balanced here overall, neither team is awesome at the plate for a college team, but Clemson hits for more average, power, and shows more patience at the plate. Its not like the SEC and ACC are miles apart either in terms of pitching. Clemson faced 3 guys who went in the top 15 picks of the draft (Sale, McGuire, Harvey). Clemson runs more often and for a higher success rate.

Bama ranked 9th in the SEC with that .298 BA, 10th in homers and 5th in runs scoring average.

Prospective lineups are taken from last week's action.

Alabama Prospective Lineup
Pos Player BA R H 2B HR RBI BB
CF Taylor Dugas .393 66 90 15 2 36 59
SS Josh Rutledge .365 63 104 16 10 69 14
2B Ross Wilson .274 43 60 7 8 44 39
1B Clay Jones .329 52 78 14 17 65 41
3B Jake Smith .261 40 62 9 13 55 20
LF Jon Kelton .297 37 57 13 2 33 30
RF Andrew Miller .244 27 41 7 1 25 15
DH Brett Booth .232 14 22 2 1 11 2
C Brock Bennett .280 31 42 6 2 17 8
OF x-David Kindred ,314 17 32 10 3 18 6
IF x-Cal Tinsley .267 11 16 6 0 8 4


Another top-heavy lineup. If we can handle the top 4 guys and keep them off the bases, we should do well. Dugas is 19/24 and Rutledge is 15/18 on stolen bases. Smith is vulnerable to the strikeout though, with 67 on the year in 238 AB. Both Rutledge and Dugas were All-SEC players, and Rutledge went in the 3rd round to the Rockies. He has hit in 26-straight road games.

Jake Smith, a dual threat from the mound and 3B, went to the Phillies in the 15th. Ross Wilson went in the 10th to the ChiSox.

In case you're wondering, or wanting to point and laugh, our favorite coot Chris Smelley does play for Bama and still sucks (hit .153).

Clemson Prospective Lineup
Pos Player BA R H 2B HR RBI BB
DH/1B/P Will Lamb .294 40 47 6 4 36 23
2B Mike Freeman .330 64 87 22 8 55 33
LF Jeff Schaus .313 65 80 12 15 80 27
RF Kyle Parker .356 78 79 15 20 63 50
SS Brad Miller .365 66 81 18 7 41 47
3B John Hinson .341 52 76 9 15 67 23
1B Richie Shaffer .323 39 43 10 4 27 15
CF Wilson Boyd .304 41 63 13 5 45 36
C Spencer Kieboom .278 9 10 3 0 4 4
C x-John Nester .254 20 35 9 2 24 20
CF x-Addison Johnson .256 16 21 1 2 14 14


I'm praying that someone besides Epps plays DH and CF, but we could see him. Boyd was injured and appears healthy now, but AJ should be their next choice. I'd rather have someone who can play defense out there.

Kieboom played so much last weekend that I put him in there for this weekend, but I think its a given that we'll see Nester start too. If Lamb starts from the mound, it'll probably be Milller at leadoff.

Mike Freeman is still playing the best baseball he's ever played, defensively and at the plate. He ate up Auburn at every opportunity. Freeman is riding an 11-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 29 of his last 31 games. Brad Miller has hit safely in 14 straight games and 24 of his last 25 games.

Parker didn't impress in Auburn and hasn't really impressed at all in weeks; he's just been average at the plate since his scorching start. I'm waiting for him to take the team on his back and push them to the CWS, which may be asking too much. Last week he missed several mistake pitches (hanging curves and sliders) from their staff and I thought he was tight at the plate. He is not driving the ball like he was earlier. I hope its just nerves about the draft, but he has not looked comfortable for awhile.

As for our draft results, I doubt we lose anyone early this year besides Parker, either in the incoming freshman class or our juniors. Mike Freeman went in the 11th to the D-Backs (Senior), and the next earliest is John Hinson in the 13th (Phillies). One of our freshman signees went in the teen rounds and the rest that got picked went very late, so all should come in. Usually a top-10 rounder will take the money.

Junior Jeff Schaus went in the 27th and Casey Harman the 29th, but both fell because of their asking price and will likely be back.

Schaus and Harman both said Wednesday that they received calls in the first eight rounds, asking if teams could select them. Both told teams their price, which was deemed too high for that part of the draft, causing both to slip.

"It’s up in the air," Schaus said. "I slipped pretty low, because it’s worth something to come back to school here. If they want to work something out I’ll work something out, but I definitely want to come back here, too."

Harman concurred.
"it’s kind of a late pick. I’m going to wait until after the season to worry about that, just finish on a good note. …. This is a great place. To me, it’s not worth it to just take anything and go out and start playing pro ball. I like it here and if I really feel like I need to take the opportunity I’ll take it. But right now I’m just worried about finishing out this season and having a shot to go to Omaha."

Team Pitching

Team Pitching Statistics
Clemson 4.82 41-22 2/2 11 564.0 623 353 302 210 442
Alabama 4.81 41-23 2/2 15 569.1 626 338 304 201 498

The stats bear it out: Alabama and Clemson are really close in terms of pitching success. Clemson has guys in the back of the pen who aren't worth a damn, and so do they. Clemson has had big trouble finding a quality 3rd starter, and so have they. Clemson doesn't have a consistent closer, but Alabama is in a little better shape here with Jake Smith (1-2, 0.98 ERA, 5 SV) and with Nathan Kilcrease (8-2, 2.42ERA in 33 app with 4 SV) sharing spot duty in long relief with the occasional starting appearance. Kilcrease is the one who pitched them this far, with 7 innings against Elon in game 1 of the Regional, and with 6 strong innings in the Regional finale against Georgia Tech's impressive lineup.

Typical GT early postseason choke though.

Other than Tucker Hawley (2-1, 3.99 ERA in 38.1IP) they don't have anyone statistically impressive out of the bullpen. Everyone else has ERAs over 4.5 and most over 5, basically just like Clemson.

Alabama has the better pitching coach. We should know, he came from here. Thanks to TDP and Katie Hill for letting him go.

Not much else to say about Clemson's pen that I haven't before. Don't let Tomas Cruz pitch...ever. Frederick is the only safe bet.

One last thing to add: Bama was 2nd in the SEC in defense. Clemson is just terrible defensively overall but they were outstanding against Auburn and have been decent since midseason.

Prediction: I have not put this team down as being Omaha caliber this season.

Clemson has great weekend starting pitching, but so much youth in the pen and midweek starting that it pulls our team ERA down to 5th in the ACC.  We're about midpack in terms of hitting for average with a few guys that are lineup regulars really struggling to get a base knock right now. However, with our last place defense, I would not see us getting past the Super Regional round unless we luck out with a great matchup.

I actually didn't think we were good enough at midseason to make it past the Regional round.

Hard to pick against Clemson here though. We have an offensive edge and are equal on the mound. We are good at home, and good at home in the tournament. I did not think we would get a home set in this year's tournament. Our defense was great last weekend, which has been a major sticking point in my mind. Our pitching showed up, but now they have to do it again.

If Clemson gets good defense I think we win it 2-1.