With NCAA baseball regional play beginning this Friday, it was only right that I invited one of the great sons of Clemson, a rare person who gets more bent out of shape over Clemson baseball than I, to share his take on the tough task Clemson faces in the Columbia regional. A big thank you to Mark Gordon for the guest blog post. Please leave your opinions in the comment section at the bottom of the post.
2013 Columbia Regional Preview – By: Mark Gordon
I’ll admit, one word came out of my mouth on Memorial Day when the brackets were announced on ESPNU at noon. @#%&!!! That’s right Tiger fans, we’re making the short trek to Columbia for the second year in a row. Here is a look at what Clemson has to do to pull off the upset against the Gamecocks, Flames, and Billikens… Besides making sure that everybody on the team is vaccinated. (Yeah I know, real impartial, but I’m still a Clemson graduate darn it!)
1) Don’t Look Ahead to the Gamecocks
Jack Leggett’s club has done this in the past, most recently in 2011, losing the final two games in their own regional against the Connecticut Huskies. They were looking ahead to a Super Regional matchup against the Columbia Regional winner Gamecocks, and forgot that in order to get there, they had to win their own regional first. Unfortunately, it looks like this mistake has already been made when reports surfaced that Clemson would be starting Freshman Zack Erwin (the Sunday starter) on the hill in Friday’s opener against Liberty. I understand the logic of saving ace Daniel Gossett for a Saturday showdown, but you have to GET THERE FIRST Jack. Liberty is no pushover and the Tigers have lost five straight. To right the ship, you need to send Gossett out on Friday and dominate an inferior Liberty team to get the confidence moving in the right direction again. Worry about Saturday on Saturday.
2) Lefty Love
Clemson’s success both at the plate and on the base paths recently have come down to which arm the pitcher is throwing the ball with. Clemson’s success begins on the base paths, where against left-handed pitching, they clearly use a “guess and go on the first move” tactic. When it works, runs are produced. When it doesn’t, you run yourself out of A LOT of innings. I’m going to leave it at that since lord knows I’m all burnt out on pick off moves after hearing the ACC Tournament announcers fawn over the legality of Tar Heel Benton Moss’ spin pick off move for four hours. Let’s also remember that to steal, you have to get on base, and the Tigers have been hitting LHP miserably including hitting .120 against Gamecock LHP. Luckily, Liberty does not have a bonafide LHP, but Carolina has already announced that they will send Sophomore Jordan Montgomery to the hill on Saturday. Earlier this season, Montgomery pitched 8.0 innings of three hit shutout ball against the Tigers. Basically, figure it out, and figure it out fast.
3) Grow up, and grow up quick
“This team is so young and unproven” blah blah blah. That crap was fine in week one, but this is the 60th game of the year and it’s time to walk like men. It starts at the top of the order. Maleeke Gibson needs to use his speed and get on base because I’m sick and tired of watching Garrett Boulware step up with the bases empty. You also need to keep Tyler Slaton on the bench in favor of Freshman Mike Triller. I don’t care that Slaton has one more year experience and has been to the Columbia Regional before. The bottom line is he is playing like garbage. The unsung heroes of this regional are going to have to be Gibson and Steve Wilkerson at the top of the order creating scoring opportunities. Shane Kennedy needs to have a big series getting them in too. You are also going to see Freshman Clate Schmidt come out of the bullpen in BIG situations. His success in these pressure spots may or lose the regional for Clemson.
I see Erwin pitching well enough to get the offensively slumping Tigers past the Flames, but I can’t see the Tigers getting to Jordan Montgomery even with Gossett on the hill. After a win in the consolation game against St. Louis (Yeah, they are a pretty good ball club in case anybody missed that memo) I predict a lot of things in my living room being thrown against walls. Take that whatever way you will.
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