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Baseball Hoping 13th Straight Trip to NCAA’s is Lucky One

May 25, 1999

Tigers Headed To Arkansas In NCAA Regional Clemson (37-24) will be a #2 seed in the NCAA Baseball Regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which is hosted by the University of Arkansas, who is the #1 seed. Clemson’s first-round opponent will be the third-seeded Southwest Missouri State Bears (36-17) of the Missouri Valley Conference. The two teams will play at 3:00 PM EST on Friday.

Arkansas (41-21), of the Southeastern Conference, will also face fourth-seeded Delaware (35-23), of the America East Conference, in the first round of the double elimination tournament, which begins Friday, May 28. Arkansas and Delaware will play at 8:00 PM EST on Friday. The two losers will play at 12:00 PM EST on Saturday. The two winners will then play on Saturday at 4:30 PM EST.

Clemson, who has played 26 of 61 games against 1999 NCAA Tournament teams, will make its 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the fourth longest streak in the country. Only Miami (FL) (27), Florida State (22), Oklahoma State (19), and Wichita State (13) have a streak as long or longer than Clemson’s.

Arkansas, which features college baseball’s premier stadium (Baum Stadium – capacity of 3,300) according to Baseball America, has artificial turf on the entire field. Ironically, the last time the Tigers traveled to a regional (Texas Tech – 1997), the infield only was artificial turf. Southwest Missouri State also played in the Central Regional in Lubbock in ’97, but did not face the Tigers in the tournament.

Clemson In The NCAA Tournament Clemson will play in its 13th consecutive and 26th NCAA Tournament overall when the Tigers travel westward to play in the NCAA Regional at Arkansas. Clemson, who has hosted a regional for four of the past five seasons prior to 1999, has an overall tournament record of 59-52 (.532) and has advanced to the College World Series eight times, the last coming in 1996. Clemson has also won at least one NCAA Tournament game in each of its 12 previous appearances. Jack Leggett has now led Clemson to the NCAA Tournament all six seasons as Tiger skipper. He is also making his 11th overall trip (made five at Western Carolina) and has a 14-10 record in the tourney as the Tiger Head Coach, including 12-6 in regional play.

The last time the Tigers went on the road in the NCAA Tournament was in 1997. Clemson went 1-2 in Lubbock, TX in the Central Regional at Texas Tech. Last season, the Tigers went 1-2 in the East Regional at Clemson. Clemson won its opener over The Citadel 12-3, but fell to South Alabama 2-1 in 16 innings and lost the next day 8-5 to eventual National Champion Southern California. The last time the Tigers advanced on the road past a regional was in 1991 when Clemson won four consecutive games in the Northeast Regional in Orono, ME.

Clemson Versus Regional Opponents Clemson and Southwest Missouri State have met twice, both times in 1993 in the Best of the West Tournament in Fresno, CA. Clemson won both games by scores of 8-7 and 5-4. Arkansas and Clemson have also met twice, with both meetings coming in 1987 in the NCAA South Regional in Huntsville, AL. The Razorbacks won both games by scores of 6-5 and 4-2. Clemson and Delaware have never met.

Scouting The Bears Southwest Missouri State (36-17), under the leadership of Head Coach Keith Guttin, is one of the top hitting teams in the country. The Bears are hitting .351 and have hit 138 home runs. The .351 batting average is leading the country as well. Their 10.6 runs per game is also one of the best in the country. The Bears have scored 20 or more runs in a game eight times and scored 30 runs twice. The pitching staff has a team ERA of 5.49. A key to Southwest Missouri State’s success has been its ability to avoid stranding runners on base, as the Bears have left 50 fewer runners on bases this season. Seventeen of the Bears’ 25 players on the post-season roster are either junior or senior status and 19 of the 25 are from the state of Missouri. Ryan Mottl, is a native of Florissant, MO (outside of Saint Louis) is the only Tiger from that portion of the country.

Matt Cepicky lead the Bears at the plate with a .406 batting average, 27 home runs, and 90 RBIs. Micah Holst is also .405 with 11 homers and 58 RBIs to go along with a team-best 14 stolen bases. Jon Hale (24) and Nick Kays (22) are two other Bears that have 20-plus homers this season. Eight of the nine regulars in the lineup have a batting average of .315 or higher. Dan Firlit is the only Bear not to be hitting .300, but he is batting a respectable .292.

Righty Shayne Ferrier is one of two relievers the Bears have counted on to shut the door in late innings. He has a 5-0 record with four saves in 15 appearances. Ferrier also features a 1.57 ERA and .133 opponent batting average. Righthander Matt Smith is 3-2 with four saves and a 3.41 ERA in 17 appearances as well. The Bears’ pitching staff has 11 saves and six complete games in ’99.

The Tigers and Bears have one common opponent this season, Creighton. Clemson and Creighton played twice in the UNLV/Coors Desert Classic in late February. Creighton won the first game 4-3 and the Tigers won the second meeting 13-10. In a four-game series between Creighton and the Bears in mid-April, Creighton won three games. Creighton also eliminated the Bears from the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with an 11-2 win.

ACC Tournament Recap Clemson went 3-2 in the 1999 ACC Tournament in Durham, NC from May 19-22, advancing to the championship round. The Tigers picked up wins over N.C. State (7-6) on May 19, Maryland (7-6) on May 21, and #2 Florida State (8-7) on May 22. Clemson fell twice to #15 Wake Forest (6-3, 9-5) on May 20 and May 22. All three wins were by one run, as Clemson improved to 9-0 in its last nine one-run games. The Tigers were involved in several thrilling finishes, including holding on against #2 Florida State and scoring three runs in the ninth to defeat N.C. State. In the N.C. State game, Justin Singleton hit a ninth inning, pinch-hit home run to tie the game that Clemson went on to win. Clemson got outstanding relief pitching, especially from closer Chris Heck. Heck was 1-0 with two saves in his three appearances. The Tiger bats tallied 18 doubles and four home runs. Patrick Boyd and Khalil Greene each had four doubles and one homer on their way to being selected to the All-ACC Tournament Team.

Clemson 37-13 Against SEC Teams Under Leggett In six seasons under Head Coach Jack Leggett, Clemson has had tremendous success against the Southeastern Conference. Leggett’s record against the SEC as the Tigers’ skipper is 37-13 (.740), including 15 wins against top-25 teams. Leggett also has at least a .500 record against all six SEC schools he has faced while at Clemson. Since getting blown out 38-16 at South Carolina in 1997, the Tigers have won eight straight games against SEC foes. Below is a list of Leggett’s record at Clemson against each of the six SEC member schools he has faced:

SEC Leggett's  Record    Winning Opponent     at Clemson  Percentage Alabama          2-0     1.000 Auburn           1-1      .500 Georgia          9-3      .750 Kentucky         3-0     1.000 South Carolina  13-6      .684 Tennessee        9-3      .750 Totals         37-13      .740 

Clemson Faring Well Against Top-Notch Competition Clemson is 10-7 against teams ranked in the top 25 by Collegiate Baseball and 9-7 against teams ranked by USA Today/Baseball Weekly. The seven losses came at the hands of #1 Florida State (2), #6 Miami (FL) (2), #15 Wake Forest (2), and #14 North Carolina (1). The Florida State and Miami (FL) losses were away from home as well. Clemson defeated Florida State in Tallahassee when the Seminoles were #1 in the country and defeated the Seminoles in the ACC Tournament when they were #2 in the nation. In six seasons under Jack Leggett, Clemson has won 71 games over top-25 foes, an average of almost 12 wins per season. And in the last 11 seasons, Clemson has won 120 games over top-25 teams. Below is a year-by-year breakdown of wins over top-25 teams.

Season  Top-25 Wins Season  Top-25 Wins 1999    10   1993    13 1998     8   1992    12 1997     6   1991    11 1996    13   1990     5 1995    15   1989     8 1994    19  Total (Last 11 years)   120 

Tigers Winning The Close Ones After a 9-8 defeat at Western Carolina on April 6, Clemson fell to 17-14. One of the reasons for the record was that the Tigers were 2-5 in one-run games up to that point. But since then, Clemson is 20-9 thanks to having a 9-0 record in its last nine one-run games. The return of closer Chris Heck after having surgery to repair a torn labrum (shoulder area) has certainly helped the Tigers win the close games. All nine one-run victories have come since Heck has been back in the bullpen. In Heck’s last 11 appearances, he is 4-0 with five saves. All four of his wins and four of his five saves have come in the nine-game one-run win streak. Clemson is 11-5 overall in one-run games in ’99.

Tigers Land Back In Poll After being absent from the College Baseball polls for seven weeks, Clemson landed back in the top 25 of the Collegiate Baseball poll at #23 on April 26 thanks to four wins over ranked teams (three against #19 Georgia Tech (April 23-25) and one over #20 South Carolina (April 21)), and thanks to having won eight of its last nine games up to that point. Clemson is currently ranked 16th in this week’s Collegiate Baseball poll and 24 by Baseball America, but is not ranked in USA Today Baseball Weekly.

Tiger Tidbits

Clemson is 17-9 at night. Clemson is 7-3 in its last 10 gamesagainst top-25 teams and is 10-7 overall against top-25 rankedteams according to Collegiate Baseball. Clemson needs three wins toreach the 40-win mark for the 14th straight season. Clemson’s topeight hitters all have on base percentages of .416 or higher. RyanMottl is 2-7 as a starter this season (15 starts); but his six nodecisions, Clemson is 6-0.

Mike Proto has allowed just two stolen bases in eight attempts.

Post-Season Honors

All-ACC Team     #   Name, Cl.   Pos.    Team     24  Patrick Boyd, So.   OF  1st     25  Jason Harris, Sr.   1B  2nd     30  Mike Paradis, Jr.   SP  2nd 

Bultmann Sets Tiger Doubles Record, Nearing ACC Best Senior second baseman Kurt Bultmann gets the most out of his 5′-8″ frame. He showed he belonged when he hit .471 in the College World Series as a freshman after hitting just .243 in the first 41 games of his career. Then he hit a school record 31 doubles and 48 extra base hits as a sophomore. Now he has risen to the top of the Tiger career doubles list and is climbing the home run list as well. The Seminole, FL native hit his 78th career double against South Carolina on April 21 to set the school record, surpassing Gary Burnham (1994-97). It was a memorable night for Bultmann, who also hit a home run, had a ninth-inning single with two outs, and scored the winning run in Clemson’s thrilling 5-4 win over the rival Gamecocks. He also has hit 42 career home runs, fifth best. His 82 doubles is also tied with the ACC record held by Yellow Jacket Jason Varitek (1991-94). Bultmann, who has 210 career RBIs and has scored 228 runs, became just the third player in Clemson history and 10th in ACC history to score 200 runs and drive in 200 runs. He reached that milestone when he drove in four runs against Winthrop on May 7, 1999. He also hit two homers, a double, totaled four hits, and scored three runs against the Eagles. He also needs just one hit to become just the sixth player in ACC history and first in Clemson history to join the 300-hit, 200-run, and 200-RBI club. He is already just the fifth Tiger to score 200 career runs. Bultmann is also coming through with the bases loaded (5-for-8).

He had one of his best games against #24 Washington on Feb. 25 when he was 3-for-5 with two homers (grand slam and three-run) and eight RBIs. He also has shown why Baseball America listed him as the best defensive second baseman in the ACC. Bultmann went 29 consecutive games (dating back to last season) without committing an error (127 chances) before his streak ended on Feb. 26 at UNLV. He also had a streak of not committing an error in 15 games in March to early April of ’99 and a 14-game errorless streak from April 7 to the first game of a doubleheader on May 1. Bultmann has seen his fielding percentage fall slightly to .964 (only 10 errors) in ’99 after fielding at a .979 clip (five errors) in ’98. He is a career .393 hitter (22-for-56) in NCAA Tournament play as well. All this for a player who was all but resigned to attending junior college out of high school. Below is a list where Bultmann ranks in the all-time Tiger doubles list:

Clemson Career DOUBLE Leaders

Rk. Name (Years)    Doubles 1.  Kurt Bultmann  (1996-present)  82 2.  Gary Burnham   (1994-97)       77 3.  Bert Heffernan (1985-88)       63 4.  Chuck Baldwin  (1984-87)       62 5.  Shane Monahan  (1993-95)       60 

Bultmann has returned to his form of ’97 as he is hitting .339 with a .445 on base percentage, 23 doubles, two triples, 11 homers, 68 runs scored, 68 RBIs, and five stolen bases in 60 games this season.

Heck Of A Recovery Senior lefthander Chris Heck (Philadelphia, PA) transferred to Clemson before this season and was primed to be the Tiger closer. But a torn labrum that required surgery kept Heck on the sidelines for the first half of ’99. Now Heck is back at full strength. He has been one of Leggett’s “go-to” pitchers in recent weeks and was named ACC Pitcher-of-the-Week for his efforts against #20 South Carolina and #19 Georgia Tech. He earned his first win as a Tiger against the Gamecocks on April 21 by pitching the last 2.1 innings, allowing no hits, no runs, and one walk while striking out four. Then he picked up his first save as a Tiger against the Yellow Jackets on April 25 by pitching 2.2 innings, allowing one earned run and no walks. He picked up his second win in the second game of a doubleheader against Virginia on May 1 by pitching 3.0 innings, allowing one hit, one walk, and no runs while striking out three batters. He then picked up his fourth consecutive “positive” stat (win/save) in as many appearances by picking up the win against Western Carolina on May 4, where he allowed one run in the last 3.0 innings. He pitched three scoreless innings and struck out six in earning his third save of the season at N.C. State (May 16). He then played a part in all three Clemson wins in the ACC Tournament. He picked up saves against Maryland (5/21) and #2 Florida State (5/22), and earned the win against N.C. State on May 19. Heck, who played under Tiger Pitching Coach Kevin O’Sullivan in the Cape Cod League, has a 1.85 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched (15 relief appearances) to go along with a 4-0 record and five saves in ’99. All four of his wins and four of his saves have come in one-run games and he is 4-0 with five saves in his last 11 appearances. Clemson is 9-0 in its last nine one-run games thanks in part to Heck.

Freshman Khalil Greene Coming On Of Late Although freshman third baseman Khalil (pronounced kuh-LEEL) Greene, a native of Key West, FL, saw his batting average drop significantly in the middle of the season, he has come on of late, raising his batting average to .340 with eight homers and 59 RBIs in 61 games. He also leads the team with 27 multi-hit games. In his last 22 games, he is 35-for-86 (.407) with eight doubles, four homers, and 27 RBIs.

Greene shined in the UNLV/Coors Desert Classic from Feb. 25-28, hitting .458 with two homers (one of which was an inside-the-park homer) and five RBIs in five games. He also hit two homers in the first game of a doubleheader against George Mason on Mar. 13. He had an 11-game hit streak earlier this season as well, one of the longest by a Tiger in ’99. He had back-to-back stellar games against #10 North Carolina from May 9-10. In both games, he went 3-for-4. In the first game, he had a career-high five RBIs, including a home run. In the second game, he hit a home run and had four RBIs. In the three game series against the Tar Heels, he was 8-for-12.

He had an outstanding ACC Tournament, hitting .389 with four doubles, and a three-run homer to help him earn All-ACC Tournament honors.

Consistency Is Keyword With Boyd Palm Harbor, FL native Patrick Boyd had one of the best games by a Tiger in recent years when he was 2-for-2 with two homers, three walks, four RBIs, and five runs scored in Clemson’s 18-1 win over East Tennessee State on April 1 at Tiger Field. Three days later, he one upped himself against #6 Miami (FL) when he had three hits, including a towering homer, and a career-high six RBIs. That week (five games), he hit four homers and drove in 12 runs. Boyd then had four hits, including two homers, and four RBIs in the Tigers’ 13-8 win over #19 Georgia Tech on April 24. He also drove in the winning run in the 11th inning to top Virginia in the second game of a doubleheader on May 1.

Boyd, who has started at designated hitter in 27 of 53 starts, started in centerfield against Duke (April 18) in his first action in the field in weeks. He had been struggling to get over stiffness from the surgery on his right labrum (shoulder area) that caused him to miss six games earlier in the season. He has been starting in centerfield ever since. The sugery has not taken anything away from the 1998 ACC Rookie-of-the-Year’s bat, as he is hitting .377 with 15 homers, 17 doubles, a triple, 69 runs scored, 62 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases in ’99. Boyd, who has hit in the #2 spot in the lineup, has also hit safely in 44 of the 54 games he has appeared in this season. He has hit safely in 15 of the last 16 games. During that stretch, he is hitting .463 (31-for-67) with 22 RBIs and has had at least two hits in 11 of the 16 games. Boyd’s ability in centerfield had been sorely missed. The 1998 ACC Rookie-of-the-Year was tabbed the best defensive outfielder in the ACC by Baseball America in its preseason issue. He is also listed as the #1 college prospect for the 2000 Major League Draft by the same publication.

“Patty” was one of 33 players invited to participate in the 1999 USA Baseball National Team Training Camp tentatively scheduled to begin June 8. He played for the team after his freshman season a year ago and hit .264 in 39 games. But Boyd has chosen to play in the Cape Cod League this summer.

Paradis Found Junior righthander Mike Paradis has been one of the bright spots on the Tiger pitching staff this season. Control problems plagued the fireballer in his first two seasons, but he has had command of all his pitches in ’99. The Auburn, MA native is 6-0 with a 4.00 ERA and opponent batting average of .262 in 14 starts. The key to his success has been his ability to keep the ball down in the strike zone as he has thrown 105 ground-ball outs compared to just 44 fly-ball outs. Against Virginia in the second game of a doubleheader on May 1, all 14 of the outs recorded by Virginia hitting the ball were ground balls. In 12 of his 14 starts he has gone at least 5.0 innings as well. Paradis picked up the win over #1 Florida State on April 10, ending the Seminoles’ 21-game winning streak. He also picked up the win against Duke on April 16 by pitching 6.0 innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out eight. After allowing three first inning runs on four hits to #19 Georgia Tech on April 23, he did not allow a hit or run in the next 5.0 innings on his way to picking up the victory. Baseball America rated Paradis as the #7 prospect in the ACC and #42 college prospect for the 1999 Major League Draft. Paradis was recently featured on ESPN as one of the top “power” pitchers in the country. Peter Gammons listed him as one of the first 10 potential picks of this year’s draft. Paradis was a seventh-round draft pick by the Oakland Athletics out of high school.

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