The collegiate national tournament is in full swing which is an excellent thing for college baseball fans. I'll begin by commending ESPN's coverage. Friday/Saturday saw tons of baseball coverage, including loads of action from the Columbia regional. Big Ups to the ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU/ESPN3 coverage as it showcases some of the most exciting game play. I hope this continues throughout the tourney.
I'll begin by congratulating Clemson on a nice opening game win over Coastal. Coastal is no joke and defeated our Tigers earlier in the season. Clemson was able to light up the scoreboard and impressive in this victory and showed a team that appeared to be clicking offensively just in time for regional play. Now, onto the South Carolina game.
If I were a fan not associated with Clemson, yesterday's game at South Carolina would have been nothing less than intriguing. It featured extra innings and loads of drama. From my perspective as a Clemson fan, though, it was a nail-biting game of a win that might have been. In my opinion (and you know what they say about opinions), Jack made critical mistakes and Clemson executed poorly at times. I would have brought Brady in to start the ninth, particularly with a lead and after Myer was fortunate a hanging slider didn't end up in the grandstands during Carolina's half of the 8th. I am also confused why Clemson chose not to load the bases in the 9th with runners on 2nd and 3rd, one out, and the winning run at second base. A double play in that situation gets you out of the inning. Fortunately, Clemson limited the damage to one game-tying run aided by a heads up tag at the plate. Also, I am not sure why we struggle so much laying down sacrifice bunts and walk opposing batters attempting to lay down sac bunts.
Clemson's Daniel Gossett pitched extremely well yesterday. His breaking pitches were flat out nasty and impressed all who watched. His lone mistake was the two run shot; otherwise it was a nice outing. I'll say that I do not agree with the interference call and the rule for several reasons. (A) the play at second did not stop Pankake from completing the double play and (B) the plated runner was away from the ball. The umpire would have been better off with a no-call, particularly after the double play was successfully completed. The rules do, I believe, say interference results in a dead ball.
This call, however, was not the most irritating item seen early. Carolina pitcher Michael Roth-a thorn in Clemson's side for years now-was hot garbage early in the game. Roth-who has been vastly successful getting opponents to bite on crap-was able to hang around and hang around. Clemson was unable to kick Roth while he was down early and he was able to hang around for 6+ innings when the Tigers should have knocked him out early and deliver the damage that should come from such a sloppy effort. Likewise, the Tigers left numerous runners on base later in the game and simply couldn't plate runners in opportune situations.
Brad Felder had a nice ballgame that was highlighted by clutch catches and a monster shot to right field that gave Clemson a 4-2 lead late in the game. I wasn't particularly impressed with his bat flip and such, but that was an impressive bomb. Hopefully he'll continue to hit the ball well in this afternoon.
Clemson has a tough road ahead. We'll face Coastal in an elimination game at high noon. If Clemson can get past the folks from Myrtle Beach, the Tigers will have to defeat the hosting Gamecocks in consecutive games to move on in this tournament. Coastal is a quality team and I don't expect a blowout similar to the win CU picked up on Friday.
Like most of you, I am skeptical of the Clemson bullpen, more so because the Carolina game went 12 and Brady pitched a good bit in relief. Losing the first one hurts because it further stresses this pen and forces Clemson to win three consecutive games. Late pitching has been a real crapshoot and with fatigue, the questions are further magnified. Winning three in a row will be extremely tough and will require contributions from anyone able to throw henceforth.
We've discussed facilities quite a bit here but I don't recall us giving enough run to Clemson's relatively new golf facility (I believe it was officially dedicated and opened last fall). While bumping around the Clemson athletics website, I ran across a couple pictures of the new Larry Penley golf facility. If you haven't seen the renderings or taken a look at the pictures, I would encourage you to check these out. Further, I assume the public can take a look at this impressive facility and would encourage you to head over the next time you are in Tigertown. This compound may be equaled only by golf power Oklahoma State's in terms of collegiate golf facilities.