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2000 Baseball Review

2000 Baseball Review

Aug. 3, 2000

You didn’t have to look far to see where the 2000 Clemson Tigers hoped to end their season…but you had to look closely. The word “OMAHA” was stitched into the back of the team cap, a place the Tigers had failed to reach since 1996. The last time that word was on the team’s cap was during the ’96 season.

Head Coach Jack Leggett’s Omaha intuition came true as the Tigers won 51 games after capturing two regional championships at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. One season before, Clemson’s College World Series hopes were crushed, as it was just three outs from making it to Omaha. This time, Clemson won five straight regional games on its way to Omaha.

It took a 42-win regular season and a second-place ACC Tournament finish for Clemson to do what it failed to do in 1999…host in the postseason. The Tigers played host to a sub-regional, which they breezed through by a combined score of 34-6. Then, dominant relief pitching carried the Tigers over Mississippi State in two games. It was what Leggett envisioned for his seven seniors, a trip to Omaha, a place they had never been. It was especially sweet for two players in particular, catcher Brian Ellis and utility player Brian Holstad. They were the only two holdovers from the ’96 team, as both red-shirted that season. Both of them earned their degrees a few weeks before the College World Series, and both meant so much to the Tiger program in terms of leadership.

The cast of players that led Clemson to its “Promised Land” was not acclaimed with national honors. In fact, not one Tiger was named to the All-ACC First-Team for the first time since 1969. But the team did set Tiger records for home wins (37), sacrifice bunts (47), fielding percentage (.969), and saves (21). Clemson’s 37 home wins included a sweep of #2 Florida State and five wins in five games in the Sub and Super Regionals. In those eight games, 4,745 fans per game saw the Tigers go 8-0 during that stretch.

The Tigers’ success didn’t come against meager competition, as 14 of the wins came against top-25 teams, including 11 against top-10 teams. In Clemson’s last 33 games, the Tigers had a 22-11 record, not bad considering 19 of the games were against teams ranked in the top 11. Clemson also had 22 come-from-behind wins. The 51-18 final record gave the Tigers a #5 final national ranking by USA Today Baseball Weekly. Clemson was ranked in the top 10 in at least one poll for every week except the first two of 2000 as well.

Defense was an unheralded cog in the Tigers’ success. Second baseman Ryan Riley (.984 fielding percentage) and third baseman Khalil Greene along with centerfielder Patrick Boyd all displayed both consistency and spectacular glove work. At other positions, solid defensive efforts were given throughout the season, which helped Clemson’s .969 fielding percentage rank 13th in the nation. It was a testament to the amount of work and emphasis placed in that area by the Tiger coaches.

The pitching staff also improved significantly from the 1999 mark of 5.82 to the 3.99 ERA of 2000, which ranked 19th in the nation. Clemson’s starting three of Ryan Mottl, Scott Berney, and Jarrod Schmidt combined for a 28-8 record and 3.56 ERA in 305.2 innings pitched.

Mottl moved into select company in several Tiger record lists, including atop the list for career starts with 68. Berney set a Tiger record by pitching 32.2 consecutive innings without allowing a single run. Matt Additon also finished atop the career appearance list with 98.

Nick Glaser set a Tiger record with 15 saves in his first season with the program. Glaser’s 15 saves also were tied for sixth most in the country. Steve Reba battled arm problems all season, but still had a 3-0 record, 2.79 ERA, and .217 opponent batting average. Reba along with Kevin Lynn were also instrumental in Clemson’s postseason success coming out of the bullpen. The staff as a whole allowed just 29 homers, a rarity in the age of the aluminum bat.

The Tiger bats got off to a slow start in 2000, but a late-season surge put the final batting average at .304. The team also had a solid .396 on-base percentage and 112 stolen bases. Freshman shortstop Jeff Baker proved why he was the #1 freshman in the nation in the preseason according to Baseball America. He hit .313 with a team-best 11 homers and 64 RBIs. The 11 homers tied for the second most by a Tiger freshman in history. Baker and Schmidt, both freshman All-Americans, gave the Tigers one of the best young tandems in the country, as Schmidt added five homers and 26 RBIs in 152 at bats along with his perfect record on the mound. Greene showed consistency all season, as he hit a team-best .364 with 24 doubles, a .470 on-base percentage, and 12 steals. In ACC regular-season games, Greene hit a team-high .421 with a .530 on-base percentage. He also was clutch, hitting .444 with runners in scoring position and driving in 35 of his 64 runs with two outs. He had a 20-game hitting streak as well in 2000. Scrappy Casey Stone started every game and hit .357 along with a team-high 25 stolen bases.

The season began in the ACC Disney Blast outside of Orlando, FL. It almost didn’t begin for Leggett, who was in a horrifying skiing accident in December that nearly paralyzed him. But he fought through the pain and even coached in the ACC Disney Blast with a neck brace. A stellar field awaited, including defending national champion Miami (FL). After downing #7 Rice in the season opener 3-1 in just 1:51, Berney, a senior transfer from Connecticut, made his Tiger debut with an impressive win in the 4-0 victory over the #4 Hurricanes. He allowed no runs, three hits, and no walks while striking out eight Hurricanes.

After an 18-day hiatus, the Tigers opened their 23-game homestand at newly-named Doug Kingsmore Stadium with a three-game sweep of Old Dominion. Tiger pitchers allowed just one earned run and 11 hits in the series. Red-shirt freshman Michael Johnson hit the first two Tiger homers of the season and drove in five runs in the series finale.

The next weekend, Clemson took all three games against James Madison. In game two, the Tigers posted a 10-run fifth inning thanks to 11 consecutive runners reaching base (10 via base hit). Feisty Coastal Carolina gave the Tigers all they could handle on March 1, but Clemson outlasted the Chanticleers 4-3 thanks to Greene’s seventh-inning sacrifice fly.

After making the biannual trip to Las Vegas for the Coors Desert Classic, UNLV traveled eastward to take on the Tigers in a three-game set from March 3-5. Clemson won the first two games by scores of 8-0 and 5-3, as UNLV took the series finale 4-3. Tiger pitchers allowed just three earned runs and 17 hits in the three games. Berney continued his masterful pitching by pitching 8.0 shutout innings to earn the win in game one. Mottl earned the victory in game two and picked up career strikeout #300 as he pitched 8.0 innings of two-run, four-hit ball.

Leggett notched his 300th win in Tigertown on March 8 when the Tigers downed William & Mary 10-6. Stone and Boyd each had two-run singles to cement the win. Stone, who moved into the leadoff spot in the Tiger lineup in midseason, blossomed into one of the team’s top hitters. In those 38 games, he hit .396, including .446 over his last 21 games.

Ohio was Clemson’s next victim in a rain-shortened three-game series. The Tigers outscored the Bobcats 31-7, as the Bobcats left 34 runners on base. Berney’s Tiger record scoreless inning streak ended in game one at 32.2 innings. He still picked up the win in 7.0 innings of work in Clemson’s 9-4 win. Ryan Childs did not allow an earned run in 4.1 innings in his first career start in game two, as the Tigers were victorious 6-1. The Tigers won game three 16-2 thanks to 15 hits, including three by Justin Singleton. “Singy” entered the game 1-for-28. He hit .374 the rest of his junior season and moved into the lineup everyday the last third of the year as well.

In a two-game, mid-week series against #17 East Carolina, Mottl pitched 7.0 scoreless innings of three-hit ball to notch the win in Clemson’s 7-0 victory. East Carolina responded with a resounding 12-4 win. Clemson had not allowed more than six runs through its first 18 games.

Clemson opened its ACC schedule with a three-game set with Maryland. The Tigers swept the Terrapins by a combined score of 28-11. The Tigers improved to 42-1 all-time against Maryland at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Maryland mounted a furious comeback in game one, but Johnson’s three-run triple, towering homer, and five RBIs proved too much in the 8-6 win. The two teams played a doubleheader on March 18. In the first game, all nine Tiger starters had at least one hit, including Mike Calitri’s 3-for-4, five-RBI performance, in Clemson’s 9-3 win. In the series finale, Lynn notched his first victory as a Tiger in the 11-2 victory.

After a 14-2 victory over UNC Charlotte, the Tigers faced The Citadel in a three-game series. The upstart Bulldogs came into the series hitting a robust .338, but hit just .238. The Tigers pounded out 16 hits en route to a 9-3 win in game one. Berney picked up his seventh win in as many starts as a Tiger. After a 7-5 win in game two, Clemson capped the series with a 6-3 win. Three of the Tigers’ four hits came in the first inning, while four Bulldog errors led to four Clemson runs. The Tigers finished the 23-game homestand 21-2 and attained the #1 ranking in the land by Collegiate Baseball.

The Tigers hit the road to Athens, GA to face the Bulldogs. Georgia broke Clemson’s nine-game SEC winning streak with a 10-6 win. Clemson then took its act on the ACC road to North Carolina. For the first time since 1990, the Tar Heels came out ahead in a three-game series. Despite holding the Tar Heels to a .232 batting average, North Carolina won the first and last games by scores of 6-0 and 5-2, respectively. In game one, Clemson mustered just two hits. Clemson bounced right back in game two with a 10-2 win behind the arm of Schmidt. The freshman righthander allowed no earned runs and seven hits in a complete-game win, the first by a Tiger in 2000. Greene added four hits, including three doubles, and six RBIs.

Clemson posted mid-week wins against Western Carolina (11-7) and Furman (3-2) before taking on N.C. State from April 7-9. N.C. State shocked the Tigers in game one with a 5-1 win thanks to Josh Schmitt’s three-run, eighth-inning homer. It was the first homer allowed by a Tiger starting pitcher at home all season. The Tigers responded with back-to-back wins to take the series. Mottl led Clemson to a 9-0 victory, as he pitched a one-hitter in 7.0 innings to earn the win. Schmidt then pitched Clemson to victory in the series finale in the 8-4 win. Schmidt earned his fifth straight win in as many starts, and added two hits and two RBIs, including a home run. Additon set the Tiger career appearance record with his 88th.

Georgia was the first of five quality games the Tigers played the next week. Tiger batters walked 11 times, seven of which scored in the 9-7 win. The next day, an overflow crowd of 6,134 was at Doug Kingsmore Stadium to watch the Tigers challenge the #1 Gamecocks, but South Carolina came out on top 6-3 behind National Player-of-the-Year and righthander Kip Bouknight.

That weekend, #11 Wake Forest came to town for a pivotal ACC series. The Tigers won the first two games before the Demon Deacons were victorious 6-4 in game three. In game one, Ellis’ RBI double in the 12th inning gave the Tigers a 6-5 win in a 4:33 game. In game two, Glaser, who had pitched 4.0 scoreless innings earlier in the day, earned his 11th save by pitching 2.0 scoreless innings. Clemson won the game 5-4 thanks to Glaser working out of a second-and-third jam with no outs without allowing a run.

After a 17-5 win over Elon on April 18 where the Tigers plated 11 runs in the seventh inning, Clemson made the return trip to Columbia to face #1 South Carolina the next night. The Tigers built a 7-3 lead, thanks to Henr’ Stanley, Riley, and Singleton, Clemson’s last three batters in the lineup. They combined for eight hits and five runs scored. After the Gamecocks tied the score 7-7, Baker put Clemson ahead a run in the 11th inning with a solo homer. But another Gamecock rally was too much for Clemson, as the Gamecocks won 9-8 in 12 inning.

Clemson regrouped that weekend with an impressive hitting display in a sweep at Duke. The Tigers, whose skipper picked up career win #700 in the series, batted .391 and committed just one error. Stone, Greene, and Boyd each had seven hits apiece as well. Ellis’ bloop double tied the score with tow outs in the ninth inning in game one, and Clemson went on to win 8-5. Game two saw the same score after nine innings. Schmidt earned his seventh career win as well. In game three, four different Tigers had at least three hits in a 12-8 victory. Mottl earned his 30th career win, surpassing Kris Benson into third place in the Tiger recordbook.

Clemson then faced Western Carolina in Asheville, NC. The Tigers had 17 hits in the 13-4 win. That weekend, Clemson faced #5 Georgia Tech in Atlanta for first place in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets won the first two games by scores of 7-4 and 9-7. Game three’s ending was bizarre to say the least. Singleton’s three-run double helped Clemson build a 9-3 lead, but the Yellow Jackets stormed back to take an 11-9 lead. But the Tigers responded with four runs in the seventh, three coming on back-to-back homers by Greene and Baker. After allowing a run in the ninth to cut the lead in half, Victor Menocal laced a one-out, bases loaded shot to Baker at shortstop. Baker unintentionally dropped the ball, but was poised and made a perfect throw to home for the force out. Ellis then threw to third for the game’s final out.

After a week off for exams, Clemson took on #2 Florida State from May 6-8. Clemson squeaked by the Seminoles in the first two games by scores of 8-7 and 5-4, respectively, and capped the sweep with a 7-4 win. Clemson improved to 13-2 against Florida State at Doug Kingsmore Stadium as ACC foes. Stone and Greene each went 7-for-11 with five RBIs in the series. The Tigers also reached the 40-win plateau for the 15th straight season in the series. Reba had a hand in each of the first two wins, as he picked up the save in game one and retired all eight batters he faced in game two to earn the win. Berney earned his first win since March 24 in game three.

The Tigers then went on a 12-day road trip, which included games in Virginia and the ACC Tournament at Fort Mill, SC. Clemson faced Liberty on May 11, only to fall to the upstart Flames 6-4. The Tigers then made the short drive over to Charlottesville to face Virginia in the regular-season finale. Clemson won games one and three thanks to a .364 batting average in the series. Clemson held on for a 9-7 win in game one, but was blanked 11-0 in game two behind lefty Brandon Creswell. Game three saw the Tigers explode for 20 runs on 20 hits, including 10 for extra bases (all in the first five innings), in a 20-9 victory. Eight different Tigers had at least two hits. Clemson finished the ACC regular season in second place at 17-7, just one game behind Georgia Tech.

Three days later, Clemson matched up with Virginia in the first round of the ACC Tourney. Boyd and Stone had three hits apiece to lead Clemson to a 9-5 win. The next night, Clemson faced #4 Florida State. The result was the same as it was just two short weeks before. Mottl’s complete game six-hitter paced Clemson to an 8-4 win. Mottl struck out 10 in his first complete game of the season. After a devastating 9-8 loss to #3 Georgia Tech in the winners’ bracket, Clemson regrouped to down Virginia 12-5 on May 20 behind Greene’s 5-for-5 performance and Baker’s two home runs. Georgia Tech ended Clemson’s ACC title hopes later that day with an 8-4 victory.

The NCAA Selection Committee tabbed Clemson with the #4 national seed, meaning it would host a regional and super regional if necessary at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Clemson made its 14th consecutive regional appearance, as only Miami (FL) and Florida State hold longer current streaks. The Tigers faced Middle Tennessee in the opening round. Mottl pitched a complete game shutout in the Tigers’ 4-0 win. It was the first shutout by a Tiger since 1996, when Ken Vining blanked Florida State. Mottl allowed just four hits and one walk. He also improved to 22-2 all-time at home. Baker added two homers in his first career NCAA Tourney game.

Next up was third-seeded Illinois, the champions of the Big Ten Conference. Lynn pitched 4.1 outstanding innings out of the bullpen to lead the Tigers to a 9-3 win. Clemson needed just one more win to advance to a super regional, as Middle Tennessee stood in its way. It didn’t take long for the game to be decided, as Clemson had a Tiger NCAA Tournament record 24 hits in a 21-3 win. All nine Tigers starters had at least one hit by the fifth inning and eight Tigers had at least two hits, Stanley and Boyd, who had four hits apiece. Stanley was Clemson’s top hitter in the NCAA Tournament, going 12-for-19 (.632). He ended the season with a .322 batting average along with 16 steals. After a slow start, Boyd came alive in the postseason, hitting a team-best .390 with seven doubles and 16 RBIs in 13 games.

Clemson’s opponent in the Super Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium was #10 Mississippi State. Clemson went 2-0 in the best two-of-three format, as record crowds saw each game, including 6,392 fans in game two. Both games featured the Tiger bullpen step up in a big way. In game one, Lynn pitched 7.1 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out six to earn the win. A Calitri pop-fly double that was lost in the early evening sun aided Clemson’s six-run fifth inning that gave the Tigers an 11-4 win. In game two, Stanley came off the bench to tally three hits and three RBIs, and Reba added 4.2 effective innings out of the bullpen, allowing just one earned run to pick up the win. In the two games, Tiger relievers (Lynn, Reba, and Glaser) pitched 15.0 of the 18.0 innings, allowing just one earned run on 10 hits. Clemson was Omaha bound for the ninth time in history and first time since 1996. The win also gave the Tigers their first 50-win season since ’96.

First up was #7 San Jose State, a Cinderella team who was a #3-seed in a regional. Clemson scored eight runs in the second inning, highlighted by Boyd’s three-run homer, to down the Spartans 10-6. It was Clemson’s first opening-game win in Omaha in its last six tries. Reba was once again sensational out of the bullpen, this time working 4.0 scoreless innings, allowing two hits, no runs, and one walk. He also worked out of a second-and-third jam with no outs in the seventh inning without allowing a run.

The Tigers then faced #1 Stanford. The only other meeting between the two came in the 1995 College World Series, an 8-3 Cardinal win. Clemson muscled 12 hits, but went 0-for-8 during the first three innings with runners in scoring position. That would tell the story of the game, as Clemson could not capitalize on its numerous opportunities as Stanford won 10-4. The Tigers’ season came to an end three days later at the hands of #8 Louisiana-Lafayette. Greene’s clutch two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead, which they held heading into the ninth inning. But, in a wild finish, Steven Feehan laid down a perfect squeeze bunt, plating the tying run. Mottl’s throw to first was errant, and Rick Haydel came all the way around from first, narrowly beating the Singleton’s throw from the right-field line, to score as the Ragin’ Cajuns earned a 5-4 win.

From start to finish, the 2000 Clemson team exhibited a team-first attitude that enabled it to reach Omaha for the first time since 1996. No “in your face” players, no First-Team All-ACC players, no problem.

2000 Accomplishments * Won at least 40 games for the 15th straight season. * Participated in the NCAA Tournament for the 14th consecutive season, third-longest current streak in the nation. * Made its ninth trip to the College World Series and first since 1996. * Ranked as high as #5 in the final USA Today Baseball Weekly poll. * Ranked #1 in the nation for a week for the first time since 1995. * Won 14 games against top-25 teams and 11 games against top-11 teams. * Set school records for home wins (37), fielding percentage (.969), and saves (21). * Averaged 2,833 fans per date, a 874-fan increase from 1999. Both Super Regional games saw the Clemson attendance record fall, as 6,392 saw Clemson down the Bulldogs on June 3 to advance to Omaha.