Just about 66 anxious hours will pass between Clemson baseball’s Friday finale at the ACC Tourney and Monday’s NCAA Tournament selection show (noon, ESPNU).
Did the Tigers do enough in Greensboro? If so, what’s the destination? (Can’t be Columbia, right?)
And on that note, maybe most importantly, is Jack Leggett’s club playing well enough to make a run?
He and his Tigers believe they have the answers for at least two of those questions.
Through 59 games, Clemson is 36-23 (15-14 ACC) with a top-50 RPI (47 as of Saturday) and strength of schedule (41) with seven top-50 and 14 top-100 victories.
Leggett has stood firm on his team’s resume being enough.
“I would hope so, you know,” he said. “We played tough in this tournament, it’s a great conference. We finished second in our division, fifth in the conference, won two ballgames here, beat Duke, beat Miami, played tough today (against Georgia Tech). We’ve got a great baseball team.”
Longtime Miami coach Jim Morris said Clemson is one of a few borderline ACC teams deserving.
“They got some really good athletes that play and to me their club has got to be – they’re definitely one of the best 64 clubs in the country,” said Morris. “And I think at least eight teams in this league gotta get in that tournament.”
The discussion appeared tabled after downing the No. 6 ‘Canes in dramatic fashion Wednesday, but dealt a shutout against Georgia Tech Friday, the door was left ajar.
Baseball America has Clemson as one of the last three teams in alongside Stanford (44 RPI/19 SOS) and Central Florida (50/50).
The ACC has seven in that field projection – N.C. State (58 RPI; 32-23) and Duke (82; 33-24) out in the cold. The conference’s RPI is rated third behind the SEC and Big 12.
Clemson has missed the tournament just once since 1987.
“I would be shocked and disappointed if anything else happened (than making it),” said Leggett of a team that’s gone 11-4 down the stretch, “so we’re looking forward to going back and practicing and hopefully preparing ourselves for next weekend.”
Clemson’s starting staff – led by the 1-2 punch of junior righty Daniel Gossett (7-1, 1.78 ERA) and sophomore lefty Matthew Crownover (8-5, 2.26) – has been instrumental in lowering the staff ERA by almost a full run in the final two-thirds of the season (4.68 to 3.69).
Tiger starters have given up three earned runs or less in 18 of the last 19 games, qualifying for 13 quality starts.
Friday, sophomore right-hander Clate Schmidt may have nailed down a third starter role previously labeled “TBA” – allowing two runs over a career-high 8 1/3 innings.
“He did a great job for us, that’s all there is to it,” Leggett said. “Had a really good feeling about him going into the game actually, and he proved to be the right guy against them and pitched out of some jams early.”
The roller-coaster ride at the plate made a stop in Greensboro – posting two double-digit hit efforts in wins and only four knocks in the loss. Managing just eight runs, the Tigers hit .154 with runners in scoring position.
Clemson has led the ACC in batting average at several points in the year, while on the low end in several pitching categories. Their record reflects a season’s path caught in between pitcher’s duels and slugfests.
They are 28-4 when scoring at least five runs, but 8-19 when putting up four scores or less.
“Our confidence is up,” Clemson left fielder and Hanna product Garrett Boulware said. “(Friday) it just didn’t click. Clate pitched awesome. Next thing we found out about is we got a third starter. I’m just glad we found that and we’re a good hitting team.
“So when we have those three things clicking together, we will do some damage after this.”
“We actually played pretty good against Duke and played good (Wednesday) and played good offensively,” he said. “Seen good pitching all three days. We just couldn’t get it going (Friday), that’s all there is to it. The other two days I was proud of how we played offensively and anytime you’re in this league and playing in this kind of tournament, you are you’re going to see everybody’s combination of ‘best guys.’”