Clemson coach Jack Leggett sees a team on the verge of breaking through, but just not quite where he wants it yet, hosting Duke this weekend.
The Tigers are even in conference action (3-3) and 13-7 overall after taking on ranked opponents the first two weeks of ACC play.
“We’re getting close to where we want to be,” Leggett said, “but we’re definitely not where we want to be. We have some things we have to continue to get better and some guys need to step up.”
Some stars have emerged, including sophomore catcher Garrett Boulware and his team-leading .365 average with four homers, but consistency overall at the top of the lineup has come few-and-far between ranking 10th in the conference in team hitting.
And the same goes for the Clemson bullpen, which features three hurlers with three earned runs allowed on their record in 24 appearances combined, but four others sporting ERAs of 4.00 or worse.
“The 8th-9th-10th-11th guy in the pitching has to step up and do a good job for us,” Leggett said. “The 2-3-4 guys in the order that aren’t where we need them right now hitting-wise need to step up.
“We all need to get a bit better.”
For Duke (11-10, 2-4), their series win hopes rest on Friday's starter, ace left-hander Trent Swart (2-0, 1.45 ERA). On a Blue Devils pitching staff that’s struggled, the sophomore allowed just two earned runs with 13 strikeouts and two walks in Duke wins on the road at both Florida and Miami this season.
He joins his opposite number, Clemson sophomore right-hander Daniel Gossett (2-1, 1.71), among the ACC leaders in opposing batting average (.209; Gossett, .200) for the 4 p.m. first pitch.
In Saturday’s game, Tigers freshman righty Clate Schmidt (2-0, 3.38) takes on Duke right-hander Drew Van Orden (1-2, 4.21) at 6:30 p.m.
In the Sunday finale, senior right-hander Scott Firth (2-3, 2.48) tries to break a run of three-straight losses, two with the series on the line, against Blue Devils righty Robert Huber (2-2, 4.63) at 1 p.m.
All three Clemson starters rank in the top-25 in the ACC in ERA, with Gossett and Firth in the top-16.
Duke’s sluggers are led by designated hitter Mike Rosenfeld (.344/8 RBI/7 doubles), while first baseman Chris Marconcini brings the power (5 HR/17 RBI).
Blue Devils right-handed reliever Andrew Istler (1-2, 2.30) and Clemson righty Matt Campbell (0-1, 3.52) lead the conference with four saves each.
T.L. Hanna product Boulware ranks second in the ACC in home runs (3) in conference action, batting .400 since its start with 14 RBIs. Second baseman Steve Wilkerson is the only other Tiger hitting above .300 overall (.316).
The last two series the Tigers and Blue Devils have met on the diamond – it’s been a Clemson sweep, by a 9-4 average score.