CLEMSON – The final push for Clemson baseball’s regular season starts this weekend, in a crucial three-game set with No. 20 Georgia Tech.
Per Baseball America, the 25th-ranked Tigers (28-13, 13-8 ACC) and the Yellow Jackets (27-14, 11-10) are two of five teams on the cusp of hosting an NCAA regional, and with only three conference series left, this weekend could very well knock one out of the running.
Clemson has won 12-of-14, while Georgia Tech enters not-so-hot.
Tuesday, they lost 17-0 to rival Georgia before 18,240 fans at Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga., at the end of a four-game losing streak. After starting 22-7, the Yellow Jackets have lost 7-of-12.
But they can hit – atop the ACC in home runs (38) and second in team batting (.314). The Georgia Tech lineup features five players hitting .329 or better, seven with 20-plus RBIs and two with over 40.
Yellow Jacket sluggers Zane Evans (catcher) and Daniel Palka (right fielder) are tied for the conference lead with 11 home runs.
Tigers take momentum into GT series
“They’re a good offensive team,” Tigers catcher Garrett Boulware said. “They can all swing pretty well so we have to put up some numbers if we want to win this weekend.”
Clemson’s bats, on the whole, haven’t been near as potent, and Miami helped demonstrate that last week – surrendering only two runs in 27 innings.
Wednesday, the Tigers took out their frustration on Western Carolina, battering the SoCon-leading Catamounts for 12 runs on 17 hits and some much-needed confidence at the plate.
“It was good,” said Boulware, who broke out of a personal slump with a four-RBI night. “It’s one of those things – you don’t know what you’re doing (wrong). You’re swinging the bat and you don’t know why the ball is going straight up in the air.
“We made a couple adjustments and it worked so hopefully we’ll stick with that – take another run with it.”
Due to the threat of inclement weather, Friday will be a doubleheader, starting at 2:30 p.m. (ticketed as Sunday’s game) and the nightcap is at 7 p.m. (televised on CSS). Saturday’s contest is tentatively a 6:30 p.m. start, but rain is in the forecast.
The Friday afternoon matchup features two of the ACC’s best, in Yellow Jackets right-hander Buck Farmer and Clemson righty Daniel Gossett.
Farmer (7-2, 2.22 ERA) ranks second in the ACC in strikeouts (79) and is No. 1 among NCAA active pitchers in career wins (31) and strikeouts (344). Farmer is one of four conference hurlers on the watch list for 2013 National Pitcher of the Year.
Gossett (6-2, 2.56) has won three consecutive starts, striking out 10 Miami batters in seven shutout innings last week. He has held opponents to a .218 average with a team-best 61 strikeouts this season.
In game two, Clemson left-hander Matthew Crownover (5-1, 2.28) takes on Yellow Jackets righty Dusty Isaacs (4-4, 4.31), and in the finale, Tigers right-hander Clate Schmidt (3-2, 4.53) meets Yellow Jackets righty Cole Pitts (5-3, 3.91) on the mound.
Over the last two seasons, Clemson has won the regular season series and split two ACC Tournament games against Georgia Tech, for a 5-3 record.