Clemson heads to Nashville after beating Miami to get us in here. Had we not won the two games in the ACC Tourney I'd not have given us any chance to make it in at all as a #4 seed. Luckily the committee was generous enough to Jack Leggett not to send us to Columbia, where I'm sure we'd have looked pitiful and gotten ourselves knocked out by SC and enraging the fanbase. If we lose here, people will just clamor for Corbin to come back to Clemson, which I don't see happening at all.
This is the 20th NCAA Tournament selection for the Tigers in the 21 years Leggett has been the head coach. Clemson has won at least one NCAA Tournament game in each of the 20 appearances under Leggett and 26 consecutive tournaments overall, the fourth-longest active streak in college baseball.
1pm - #3 Clemson (36-23) vs #2 Oregon (42-18, ranked as high as 18th nationally) on ESPN3
7pm - #4 Xavier (29-27) vs #1 Vanderbilt (41-18)
Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser
Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser
Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner
Monday (if necessary)
Game 7: Rematch of Game 6, 7 p.m
The winner here faces the winner of the Indiana Regional.
RPI and recent successes
Vandy is ranked #8 in the RPI with a 41-18 record against the 5th toughest SOS in the nation this year. Against the top 50, they finished 17-14. Vanderbilt finished the year with a 2-1 series loss to the Chickens in Nashville, then lost to Ole Piss and LSU in the SEC Tournament. Earlier this year they did win their series against LSU in Baton Rouge and against Florida in Gainesville, with odd losses to Tennessee and Arky. They finished the season 26-9 at home.
As many of you know, Tim Corbin was on Jack's staff at Clemson for Leggett's best years here aside from 2006. Corbin was here when I was at Clemson, and at the time the feeling around the program was much different. Jack plucked him from PC after the 93 season, and he remained as the hotshot recruiter until 2002 when he left for Vandy. Corbin was the hitting coach here, with Pawlowski and Kevin O'Sullivan as pitching coaches for much of that time. Corbin plays small ball just like Leggett, but his pitching talent at Vanderbilt has been a notch above ours since O'Sullivan left Clemson, and it has buoyed their success over the last decade.
Oregon, a team we have never faced before, comes in with the 23rd ranked RPI against a pisspoor SOS of 81. They finished just 4-10 against the Top 50. Earlier this year the Ducks swept UCLA in LA, but this was a big downturn year for the Bruins. Their best competition appears to have waxed them.
Xavier comes in with an RPI of 100 against the 118th SOS after winning the Big East Tournament Championship over Creighton.
Clemson finished the year ranked 49th in RPI with the 44th-toughest schedule. We went just 11-9 away from Tiger Field this year, but did play well in the ACC Tournament for once. We were 7-12 against the Top 50 over the season, and lost every meaningful series we played in, along with midweek losses to Liberty, Ga Southern, and Western Carolina.
Clemson plans to throw Matt Crownover (8-5, 2.25) out for Friday's game and to save Goose's customary gem for Saturday, when we'll be fighting to stay in or gunning for our 2nd win. I do believe if we can win Friday that we have a great shot to make it to Sunday. Goose (7-1, 1.76) will be terrific as usual, the question will be whether we can actually hit a baseball with RISP for a change.
After those two, however, I see us with little chance to win out. Erwin is talented but inconsistent, and Schmidt is the same way. Jake Long (3-3, 5.40 ERA) is not going to get it done. Campbell (4-0, 0.87, 8 Sv) has been lights out in relief, but getting to him has been a problem. When I look at how this pitching staff has turned out this season I must point to Pepicelli and ask that he be fired as soon as the season ends, along with Leggett. With the talent here this has been a disaster.
Oregon plans to throw their Lefty ace Tommy Thorpe (10-4, 2.20) on Friday against Crownover. He and Jeff Gold are their two most consistent starters, and after that there appears to be good depth in the pen, but no 3rd/4th starting arms with consistent starts. Closer Jake Reed is one of the top baseball prospects on the team, with 13 saves and a 2.08 ERA. Team ERA is 3.08, which is pretty damn good, and this after losing two of their best arms back in winter to Tommy John surgery.
Xavier's pitching carried them in the Big East Tourney, but this is an offensive team. Vinny Nittoli (6-3, 1.98), an All-Big East pick with command of a nice fastball-slider mix, leads the rotation, which is thin. They'll have to pitch over their heads this weekend to make it further.
Vandy's team ERA of 2.73 finished 16th nationally, and theres plenty of depth to go around. Needless to say, I don't see Clemson improving their BA with RISP this weekend.
From Baseball America:
Ace junior Tyler Beede (7-7, 3.49) has held down the Friday night role and shows a first-round arsenal when he’s on, with a low to mid-90s fastball, a dominant changeup and a hard curveball. However, Beede’s had an inconsistent year, and one of the turning points in Vandy’s season was the insertion of sophomore righty Carson Fulmer (5-1, 1.31) into the rotation in late April. Fulmer has an explosive fastball-curveball-changeup combination, beginning the season as the closer (10 saves), then winning each of his first five starts after the move to the rotation. Even without Fulmer, Vandy has a quality bullpen headed by a couple of junior righthanders in deceptive sidewinder Brian Miller (1-1, 1.97, 5 SV) and the power-armed Adam Ravenelle (3-1, 1.35), who pitches at 92-93 with a power slider.
Oregon doesn't have strong hitting, posting an average 20 points below Clemson's. They are led by Mitchell Tolman (.315 - 2 - 46) and Catcher Shaun Rose (Pac-12 HR champ) and most of the lineup hits in the .260 range against a weak schedule. Crownover should have little trouble with them in terms of power, but this is a scrappy team at the plate that bunts alot. Jack will probably be all over himself with joy just watching them.
Vandy hits well for average and hits a big chunk of doubles, as do the Tigers. Like us, they also steal a ton of bases, so you can see the Jack-influence on Corbin. They just happen to hit while men are on base. Vince Conde is one of the best SS's in college ball on the field and at the plate. This lineup has depth on par with our own in terms of average and power. Clemson averaged .276, slugged .382 and reached base at a .354 clip while Vandy went .278/.388/.363.
Clemson, as noted above, actually hits pretty well overall, though I am skeptical of our actual approach at the plate often when I've watched us. Big power numbers are down across the board in college ball and ours are down, but still strong in the ACC. We steal bases at a high rate, as usual. Our problems have been that we stink on defense again (205th nationally) and can't move a bat off our shoulders with 2 strikes and men on base.
Xavier hits .283 as a team, the best in this regional with the most HRs, though with far fewer 2Bs. Derek Hasenbeck leads with a .307 - 6- 27 posting and Daniel Rizzie has put up solid numbers as well (.301-4-33). They even have a strong bench group. I just don't see them doing well unless their pitching keeps up what they showed in the Big East tournament.
Vandy likely wins with Oregon a dark horse contender. Clemson likely bows out at 1-2. Hopefully this enough to get some heads to roll.