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Clemson showed depth, grit in tourney

6/15/2006

Clemson Tigers
Record: 52-14
How They Got Here: Won the Clemson Super Regional in two games; won the Clemson Regional in three games
CWS History: 11 trips to Omaha, last in 2002
Coach: Jack Leggett (607-257, 13th season)

Scouting the Tigers: "I thought Clemson was without question the best team in the [Atlantic Coast Conference]. They really pitch and are deeper than anybody in the country. The starting pitchers don't overpower you; they all come at you and throw strikes. They're bulldogs and work fast. It makes you feel uncomfortable at the plate. If you see a fastball early, be ready to hack. I thought all of them were pretty much the same: fastball, 86-88 [mph], and they all had an average slider. They threw a get-me-over slider early in the count and get you to chase with two strikes. Slow the tempo down on them and have a good opposite-field approach.


"The one thing that is overlooked is their catcher [Adrian Casanova] is the best defensive catcher we saw all year. He can really catch and throw, and he gets pitches for their guys because he's so calm. It didn't seem like they pitched on the plate much. They knocked the spots out and the umpire called it because he was doing a great job of receiving. He compliments their staff. They're all 90 with a breaking ball but they're not eye-popping stuff. They just hit their spots and have a great plan to get ground balls and have a great fielding team.

"They like to put a lot of pressure on you. Really good team speed. Seven of the nine hitters can run. There's a couple that can really, really run. Everyone is good enough that they can start runners and can bunt and can handle the bat.

"They have so many options with speed and bunting; they run a team offense really good and understand what coach Leggett is trying to do. They raked. [Tyler] Colvin was a first-rounder, a great hitter. We thought he was one of best hitters we've seen; he can do it all. We struggled with [Taylor] Harbin the most; he tore us up. He's not big or imposing, but has some sock. With Harbin, throw the first pitch out of the zone because he's hacking at the first close pitch he sees. D'Alessio killed us. He has good strength, but stay away and spin breaking balls -- he tries to hook everything. But if you miss, he'll kill it."

Omaha Outlook: Clemson (3.21 ERA) showed its depth on the mound against Oral Roberts, winning both games despite getting four total innings out of its starting pitchers. That attribute can help a team weather potent offenses (such as Georgia Tech's, which scored 61 runs in splitting six games against Clemson this year) and stay in Omaha a long time, even if it falls into the loser's bracket at some point. Two late-inning comebacks also steeled the team's reserve; it now knows no game is over as long as its productive offense still has a chance to bat. The Tigers hit the College World Series as hot as any team, with 24 wins in their last 25 games. The No. 1 national seed also must battle history, as the top-seeded team hasn't won the CWS since 1999.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.