Statement series: Tigers host streaking No. 15 Hurricanes

Baseball - Jack Leggett

Photo by Mark Crammer

Baseball - Jack Leggett

CLEMSON — No. 22 Clemson baseball hosts one of the nation’s hottest teams this weekend in a statement series.

The No. 15 Miami Hurricanes (29-13, 16-5 ACC) have won 16 of their last 17 games — 11 of their last 12 conference matchups coming in.

Led by an all-lefty weekend rotation, Miami’s team ERA (3.01) is second-best in ACC play. They rank third in strikeouts (172).

The Hurricanes haven’t lost a game Friday starter Chris Diaz (6-0, 2.48 ERA) has pitched since last year’s ACC Tournament. Sunday starter Bryan Radziewski is fourth in the ACC in punch-outs (70).

In their 16-1 stretch, freshman catcher Zack Collins is hitting .385 with 23 RBI, driving in 32 percent of Miami’s runs. Pacing the top of the lineup, center fielder Dale Carey has sported a .444 on-base percentage.

Scoring two runs over four games, Clemson dropped last year’s season series with the Hurricanes, 1-3.

Up to Wednesday, runs were at a premium for Tiger baseball in a two-game funk.

Losing the finale in Pittsburgh and then at home against Liberty, Clemson carried an 0-for-12 mark at the plate with runners in scoring position. With their first crack at it Wednesday versus Western Carolina, sophomore right fielder Steven Duggar knocked a single up the middle and the runs poured from there in a 11-3 win.

Clemson paces the ACC in batting average (.287), but in conference action, they are fourth in runs (109) and eighth in on-base percentage (.335).

“We’ve talked about (approach) and talked about it and challenged them,” Tigers coach Jack Leggett said. “Got on them pretty good (Tuesday) after we lost the ballgame. Maybe it made a difference and a switch went on. We got to carry it to the weekend. We’ve got a great challenge against Miami this weekend.”

Clemson 11, WCU 3

None

Pre-ACC Tournament, this three-game set is really the last chance at fading regional host hopes. Just three of the Tigers’ final seven opponents have winning records — Miami the only league team in that mix.

Perfect Game projected Clemson (25-16, 12-8) as a two-seed in a regional at No. 6 Florida this week.

“(It’s) huge,” senior first baseman Shane Kennedy said. “Miami has been doing really well…If we come out and at least take two out of three or hopefully sweep, that does huge things for us in the conference and huge things for us in our confidence to the weekend after that.”

After 101 consecutive starts, Clemson sophomore shortstop Tyler Krieger has missed the last two games with an injured shoulder (labrum). He leads the Tigers in average (.340) and runs (35) and hopes to return as soon as possible. Playing hurt as a middle infielder isn’t ideal, however.

“He’s day-to-day,” Leggett said. “We’ll see what happens on the weekend. He has to be able to throw across the diamond. That’s not an easy thing to do with what he’s got right now. He wants to play. He’s a good offensive player for us and we’d love to have him in the lineup.”

Clemson sits in second place in the Atlantic Division, three and a half games behind No. 4 Florida State. Miami is tied for first in the Coastal with No. 1 Virginia, who they dropped a series to earlier this season. The Seminoles host the Cavaliers this weekend.

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