May 26, 2000
CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson (46-16) plays Illinois (41-21) in the winners’ bracket of the Clemson Regional Saturday at 3:00 PM. Clemson, the #1 seed, downed Middle Tennessee 4-0 Friday, while Illinois, the #3 seed, rallied to defeat Old Dominion 3-1. The winner of the game will advance to Sunday as the only undefeated team, and will have two chances to advance to the Super Regional. The loser will turn right back around and play at 7:00 PM Saturday against the winner of the Middle Tennessee-Old Dominion game, which will start at 11:00 AM Saturday.
Clemson will start senior righthander Scott Berney (9-4, 3.20 ERA) against the Fighting Illini. Berney, who started the season by not allowing a run in his first 32.2 innings pitched (a Clemson record), is looking become the first 10-game winner at Clemson since 1997, when Ryan Mottl won 10 games. Illinois will counter with sophomore lefty Andy Dickinson (8-2, 4.01 ERA). Dickinson has made seven starts and 14 relief appearances in 2000. Clemson is just 13-7 when an opposing team starts a lefthander. However, Clemson is hitting .322 against lefthanders in 2000.
Clemson and Illinois have met just two times, both games coming at Clemson in 1986. In the first of those two games, Chuck Baldwin had three hits and three RBIs as the Tigers cruised to a 9-2 win. In the second game, Ray Williams hit two homers, including a ninth-inning solo homer to tie the score at 5-5. Back-to-back doubles by Randy Mazey and Bert Heffernan gave the Tigers a 6-5 dramatic win. Clemson has not played at Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament since 1975, when Clemson lost to Penn State 5-4 in Ypsilanti, MI.
A Closer Look at Illinois
Illinois enters Saturday’s game at #8 Clemson with a 41-21 record overall and #3 seed. The Fighting Illini defeated Penn State for the Big Ten Tournament title and downed Old Dominion 3-1 Friday. Illinois trailed 1-0 until the eighth inning, when the Fighting Illini tied the score. Illinois scored two more runs in the ninth for the win. Jason Anderson set a school record with win #14 in 2000, as he went the distance, allowing just one run on seven hits.
Illinois has played 41 of its 62 games away from home, and has a 17-11 record on opponents’ home fields and 8-5 record in neutral contests. As a team, the Fighting Illini is hitting .320 and has a 4.24 ERA. Illinois’ highest scoring output came against Saint Joseph’s on May 8, a 32-0 win thanks to 39 hits. The Fighting Illini also topped #5 national seed Houston twice in three games earlier this season at Houston.
Illinois likes to move runners along, as it has 54 sacrifice bunts. The team also is fielding at an excellent .969 clip. Opponents have had trouble stealing bases, as 26 of 54 potential base-stealers have been thrown out. The pitching staff, which is holding opponents to a .262 batting average, has 20 complete games. The staff has only allowed 35 homers and under 9.0 hits per nine innings.
Andy Schutzenhofer leads Illinois with a .378 batting average along with seven homers and 63 RBIs. Luke Simmons is hitting .353 with seven homers and 41 RBIs. Chris Basak is hitting .328 with a team-best 22 steals. All but one Illinois player is hitting .298 or better.
Righthanded closer Matt Vorwald has made 29 relief appearances and has a 6-2 record along with a 2.68 ERA, eight saves, and 37 strikeouts in 47.0 innings pitched.
Illinois has 2,077 wins in school history, ranking 12th in the nation. Head Coach Itch Jones has 1,097 career wins in his 34th year as a head coach. He is in his 10th season at Illinois and has a 331-243 record at Illinois. Illinois is making its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 1998, when it won three games in the South I Regional at Gainesville, FL.
Mottl Shuts Out Middle Tennessee in Clemson Regional Opener
No current Tiger had pitched a shutout coming into Clemson’s game with Middle Tennessee in the first round of the Clemson Regional May 26, but Ryan Mottl changed that by allowing just four hits and one walk in 9.0 innings as Clemson defeated the Blue Raiders 4-0. The last shutout by a Tiger came against Florida State in 1996, when Ken Vining blanked the Seminoles. Mottl also pitched back-to-back complete games for the first time since 1996 (Kris Benson). Mottl, who set the Clemson record with his 66th career start, struck out eight and improved to 9-3 in 2000 and 22-2 at home in his career. He had command of all his pitches, including his specialty pitch called a “fosh”. Jeff Baker added two solo homers in his first career NCAA Tournament game. Baker had two homers two games ago against Virginia, therefore hit four homers in the last three games. Khalil Greene also extended his hitting streak to 20 games with his first inning double down the right-field line. Casey Stone added a clutch two-out, run-scoring hit and a sacrifice fly as well. Former Tiger pitcher Jeff Parsons, who pitched in Tigertown as a freshman in 1997, allowed four runs and nine hits in 7.1 innings, as he suffered the loss. The meeting between Clemson and Middle Tennessee was the first.
Clemson’s NCAA Tournament History
Clemson (46-16) enters Saturday’s game against Illinois with more wins already than its totaled since 1996, when Clemson finished 51-17. The Tigers have now participated in 26 NCAA Tournaments overall and 14 in a row. Clemson has also won at least one game in all 14 of the regionals. Only Miami (FL), Florida State, and Oklahoma State have longer current streaks. Clemson’s 26 appearances also ranks seventh in the nation, while the 14-year run ranks tied for sixth all-time in NCAA history. Clemson has a 65-53 (.551) all-time record in the tournament, including a 36-27 (.571) record during the 14-year run. Jack Leggett has a 20-13 (.606) record in NCAA Tourney play as the Tiger Head Coach as well. Leggett was 4-10 in the tourney at Western Carolina in five years (1985-89), therefore is 24-23 (.511) in his career in 11 NCAA Tourneys.
Clemson, who is hosting for the first time in the new regional format, has hosted six times previously, with the last coming in 1998. Clemson went 1-2 in that regional and fell to eventual National Champion Southern California. The Tigers also hosted in 1980 (3-0), 1981 (0-2), 1994 (2-2), 1995 (4-0), and 1996 (4-0). Therefore, Clemson has a 15-6 (.714) record in tournament play as the host school. Clemson advanced to the College World Series in three of the previous six host seasons (1980, 1995, 1996).
Last season, Clemson lost in the opening round of the Fayetteville (AR) Sub-Regional to Southwest Missouri State by a 23-5 score. But in the next two days, Clemson won four games, including two over Southwest Missouri State to advance to the Super Regional at College Station (TX), hosted by Texas A&M. After getting blitzed in the first game 20-3, Clemson won game two 10-3 and led in game three 4-3 entering the top of the ninth inning, but two solo homers off Tiger star closer Chris Heck ended the Tiger season.
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