After weeks of speculation, the ACC Champion Clemson Tigers can now see their Road to Omaha. They are the No. 4 overall seed and the 1-seed in the Clemson Regional. If they win that, will be guaranteed to host a Super Regional and will face the winner of the Auburn regional — likely Auburn or Southern Miss.
The Clemson regional features the Tigers, Tennessee, Charlotte, and Lipscomb. The action gets going Friday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium with Clemson opening the regional at 1pm on Friday against Lipscomb and then Tennessee taking on Charlotte later that evening.
For Clemson, this isn’t the worst draw, but it isn’t a cake walk by any means. The Lipscomb Bison won the ASUN tournament and are making their third appearance in the NCAA tournament. Charlotte caught fire late and stole a bid by knocking off Dallas Baptist for the Conference USA championship. As a part of Charlotte’s late season run, the 49ers upset South Carolina in a midweek matchup in Columbia in May (they also beat them in March). Clemson beat Charlotte back in February at Doug Kingsmore.
The spiciest challenge for Clemson is the 2-seeded Tennessee Volunteers. In recent years, the Volunteers have become one of the hottest brands in college baseball. Tony Vitello has built a solid program that plays with swagger. The Vols went to Omaha in 2021, but this season was a bit disappointing for Tennessee, who finished fourth in the SEC East regular season standings and were bounced by Texas A&M in the first round of the SEC Tournament. That being said, the Vols are still dangerous and have some impressive series wins, including an April sweep of Vanderbilt and series wins over regional hosts Kentucky and South Carolina.
It’ll be a big weekend for baseball in the state of South Carolina. In addition to Clemson hosting, South Carolina and Coastal Carolina have been selected to host regionals. The Gamecocks are hosting Campbell, NC State, and Central Connecticut State at Founders Park. The Columbia Regional is paired with the Gainesville, Florida Regional. In Conway, Coastal Carolina are hosting Duke, Rider, and UNC Wilmington at Spring Brooks Stadium. The Conway Regional is paired with the Charlottesville, Virginia regional. It is the first time that Clemson, Coastal Carolina, and South Carolina are all hosting in the same season.
Analysis from Ryan Kantor
If you want to dig deeper into the regional, we’ve got you covered. First, check out the video above. I connected with Drew Archer who you may know from the Nachos & Analysis and Ball Talk podcasts to get his perspective and expertise.
One point we discussed in the video was that this Clemson team has already exceeded expectations. Neither of us expected them to make the tournament before the season and certainly not after they lost their first three ACC series of the year and were 2-7 in ACC play. They lost the Palmetto Series and were swept by lowly UCF. It seemed like a major rebuild — not an epic turnaround — was coming.
To an extent, they’re playing with house money, but they have a chance to do something Clemson hasn’t done in 12 years, advance to Super Regionals. It’s worth remembering Clemson’s recent postseason struggles extend past Coach Monte Lee. From 1999 (the first year of Super Regional play) to 2010, the Tigers reached the Super Regionals or College World Series nine of 12 years — 75% of the time! The Tigers have not gotten out of regional play since then. Here’s how it has gone:
- 2011: Lost Clemson Regional (UConn)
- 2012: Lost Columbia Regional
- 2013: Lost Columbia Regional
- 2014: Lost Nashville Regional
- 2015: Lost Fullerton Regional
- 2016: Lost Clemson Regional (Oklahoma St.)
- 2017: Lost Clemson Regional (Vanderbilt)
- 2018: Lost Clemson Regional (Vanderbilt)
- 2019: Lost Oxford Regional
- 2020: N/A (Pandemic Response)
- 2021: Missed NCAA tournament
- 2022: Missed NCAA tournament
Here’s how the teams in this year’s Clemson Regional measure up to each other:
Tennessee is ranked 20th in RPI and is a somewhat unlucky draw for Clemson to get as the No. 4 overall seed. I expected ECU or Maryland to get sent to Clemson. Tennessee’s RPI is boosted heavily by being in the strongest conference (RPI leans heavily on strength of schedule), but their raw stats are pretty scary too. They’re 4th in team ERA despite playing juggernauts like Arkansas, Florida, LSU, and Vanderbilt. They are 6th in home runs and they still hit for a decent average. The one thing that brings some relief is that they’re awful on the road. Vanderbilt and Kentucky were their best series wins of the year and both came in Knoxville. Their only road SEC series they won was against the Gamecocks.
Before Clemson can get to the Vols, they’ll play Lipscomb, another Tennessee-based University. Lipscomb doesn’t hit for average, but they have plenty of power. They’re playing well and enter after winning their conference tournament. They didn’t play the toughest schedule, but they did beat Arkansas in a mid-week game so they’re not to be overlooked. Their pitching has been mostly abysmal, but their top two starters have good numbers. Logan Van Treeck has a 3.50 ERA and 101 strikeouts over 82.1 innings. Braydon Tucker has comparable numbers and then there is a big drop off after that. They didn’t pitch against many tournament teams so it could be fool’s gold. Either way, the bigger vulnerability is their bullpen and depth.
Hopefully, Clemson doesn’t play Charlotte (unless the 49ers beat Tennessee). They’re also a power hitting team with some pitching issues.
Regardless of what happens in the regional, Coach Bakich’s inaugural campaign will be remembered for the epic turnaround and ACC Championship, but breaking the 12 year Super Regional drought would make it truly special.