Its hard to fathom us being in Omaha after how this team fell apart at Duke and against Wake Forest just a month ago, and in the 9th we (as in Brad Miller) tried to revert to our normal ways and give it away, but the lead we'd built up was too much for Alabama to make up thanks to the outstanding hitting performance we put up this weekend.
These two teams were very evenly balanced coming in. Clemson had an edge offensively in comparison to Alabama coming in, but the pitching staffs were roughly equal, so you couldnt expect that we would crush them like we did.
Almost as surprising was the Clemson pitching. After we all ridiculed Pepsicola for his handling of our pitchers this year, they went out and did about the best they've done all year against Alabama. The only problem Clemson's starters seemed to have, over the entire series, was the defense behind them.
Clemson's defense left much to be desired. 6 errors on the series and 8 unearned runs allowed. Two errors by Hinson and Harman ended up costing us the 1st game 5-4. That was entirely the difference in the game, and those of you who have followed our play all year had to be thinking that again it would be our defense that kills us. 3 errors by Miller, including a BONEHEAD BILL BUCKNER-LIKE play in the 9th today ended up makingtoday's clincher a contest. Miller has 29 errors on the season. Please Jack have the sense to move him to 2B next season so we can at least cut the throwing errors down.
Alabama showcased their defensive skills but also botched a few plays that ended up costing them. No unearned runs however. Clemson hitters earned it. I was really impressed by the range and abilities of their middle infielders. Ross Wilson is an excellent defensive 2nd baseman, I must say.
Clemson pitchers also did not walk a single batter in the first two games, and only 3 today. Alabama got their hits, 10 in games 1 and 2 each, and 8 today, but could never string enough together to make a big inning that didn't also have a Clemson error to prolong it.
(though I still hate Tomas Cruz and Jack is an idiot for even bringing him in)
Clemson's batting stats are obviously inflated by the Game 2 19-5 raping, but we handled the best they could throw at us well. Mistakes by Alabama got creamed and we beat their best pitchers with the exception of Jake Smith.
- 3B John Hinson has made some errors but he's 14-for-30 with 5 Homers and 10 RBI in the Tournament.
- Freshman C Spencer Kieboom went 2-for-9 but you wouldn't notice it, he gets his hits when they seem to count most and he makes some good defensive stops back there.
- 2B Mike Freeman went 13-for-17 with 4 runs and 3 RBI against Alabama, setting the table for Schaus, Hinson and Miller to drive 'em in.
- SS Brad Miller went 6-for-14 with 3 R and 7 RBI. Shaffer with 4-for-13 but killed Alabama with 2 homers in today's clincher and another one yesterday. All of these guys except Freeman should be back next season too.
- Kyle Parker still gets his hits, but is not driving the ball well at all. Just because a ball is hit hard doesnt mean he's squaring up on it. Thats what the aluminum bat does for you. If he was squaring up he'd be socking them against the wall, not punching them in the 5.5 hole. He's become a dead pull hitter for about a month. What I noticed today is that he's "stepping in the bucket" a little. He opens his hips too early after that and yanks everything to LF.
And what was most encouraging, as it was last week in Auburn when we defeated the SEC West Champs, was that Clemson answered every time Alabama scored. Momentum is a tricky thing in baseball and you have to answer when a team scores, and Clemson made the plays, the pitches, and got the hits when they needed to do it.
This is a young team, and they have certainly overachieved and didn't play tight at all the last two weeks, against Jack's M.O. Hopefully he won't say anything different to them in Omaha. If they play loose and remain aggressive at the plate, and work on infield practice ALOT, you have to feel good about our chance.