May 22, 2012
GREENSBORO, NC – There are times when all of us need to get away from it all. Step away, take a little break, collect ourselves from the hustle and bustle life has to offer.
Sometimes the same theory can be applied in sports, and if there was a team that needed to get away from it all for a little while, it’s the 2012 Clemson baseball team. As the Tigers prepare for Virginia in their first game in the ACC Baseball Tournament – Thursday at 11 a.m. – they do it as a squad that should be refreshed after a little R & R.
After their three-game series at Wake Forest, Clemson head coach Jack Leggett figured it was best that his team stay in North Carolina and take the short drive from Winston-Salem to Greensboro, which is hosting the ACC Tournament at NewBridge Bank Park, instead of driving back to Clemson and then turning around two days later and leaving again.
“I think it was just the easiest thing for us to do, travel wise,” Leggett said. It also gave the Tigers (32-24) a chance to regroup and forget about things after dropping all three-games to the Demon Deacons. In all, the two extra days in Greensboro was a nice break from the normal day-to-day routine the players have done since the season began back in February.
“It helps when you are up here already,” Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer said. “It allows you to focus on getting good workouts in. We can also just hang out, relax and just be a team. I definitely think it can help.
“It can help build on a good weekend as well as help erase weekends like we had last week. A lot of the guys like having a couple of days off to just relax. All you do is practice, and you are kind of with the whole team so it is kind of a unique situation so I think a lot of guys enjoy it.”
It’s important Clemson enjoys itself. Though the Tigers appear to have already secured a berth in next week’s NCAA Tournament, it’s still important they play well and win a few games in the ACC Tournament, if for any other reason to carry momentum into the NCAAs.
“Personally, I think we are in pretty decent shape (to get into the NCAAs),” Leggett said. “We have the sixth toughest schedule in the country. There is only one team that has played more games against Top 50 teams in the country than us. Our RPI is good, plus we battled in our conference and finished fifth in a conference that is the number one rated conference in the country.
“I would hope we are in pretty good shape, but obviously we want to play well this weekend.”
Playing well this week could help the Tigers’ stock as it pertains to where it might spend next week. Right now, Clemson is projected to go as far west as Eugene, OR for a regional. A good weekend in the ACC Tournament, especially considering Clemson will face highly rated teams like Virginia, Florida State and Georgia Tech, can only help its chances of staying in the Southeast.
But Shaffer says they can’t worry about issues they can’t control. What they can control is winning the game that is in front of them and then going from there. Though he and his teammates are striving to win an ACC Championship, he says the main goal is to play well, and carry that momentum into the NCAA Tournament.
“It is really big to draw momentum out of this week whether we make it to the championship game or not,” he said. “Last year we knew we were out of contention when we played NC State, but we ended up getting that win and that gave us good momentum heading into the regional.”
The Tigers did the same thing in 2010, winning their final ACC Tournament game over Georgia Tech before rolling though the Auburn Regional and then the Clemson Super Regional on its way to the College World Series.
It’s still unknown whether this team has what it takes to make a similar run, but one thing is for sure, they’re rested and ready to go.
“We have been able to get in the weight room, get some practicing in, get ourselves prepared mentally and get some rest. I think it has been good for us,” Leggett said.
Gossett gets the nod: Clemson will start freshman right hander Daniel Gossett (6-3, 4.83 ERA) on Thursday against Virginia. The Lyman, SC native has made nine relief appearances and eight starts for a total of 63.1 innings pitched. Junior pitcher Dominic Leone will start in Friday’s game against Florida State and Kevin Pohle will be on the mound for Clemson on Saturday against Georgia Tech.
Leggett said Tuesday pitcher Kevin Brady will be used this week in the tournament, but only as a reliever. The Clemson coach said they still want to keep a close eye on the junior who pulled his hamstring while try to cover first base against Georgia Tech on April 27.
Brady did make a brief appearance in last Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest. He faced four batters, while striking out two in one inning of work. He gave up one hit.
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