Tigers face tough slate

Tigers face tough slate

Three of the four teams at the Clemson Regional are ranked in the top 25 of the May 30 College Baseball poll, the only regional with three top 25 teams according to that poll.

It should lead to a competitive weekend of baseball at Clemson's Doug Kingsmore Stadium June 3-6.

Exact game times will be announced later after television schedules are set for the entire tournament. It is unknown at this point if there will be live television of the Clemson Regional.

Connecticut (41-17-1) is seeded second in the regional, but is ranked 16th in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball, the highest ranking of the four teams. They will face third seed Coastal Carolina (41-18), ranked 21st in the nation by Collegiate Baseball in the opening round of games.

UCONN is making its 17th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but just its second since 1994. The Huskies played host to the NCAA tournament in Norwich, CT last year, but Florida State won that regional as a number-one seed. Prior to that, UCONN's last appearance was in 1994 when current head coach Jim Penders was a star player.

Sacred Heart is making its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The only other trip was in 2006. Coastal Carolina is making its 11th trip. The Chanticleers went every year between 2001-11 with the exception of 2006, and also attended the 1991 tournament.

Clemson (41-18) is seeded first in the tournament and has a #19 national ranking by Collegiate Baseball. The Tigers will face fourth seeded Sacred Heart (34-21), winners of seven in a row and 11 of 12 entering the tournament. Among Sacred Heart's victories is a 5-4 win over 16th ranked UCONN in a game played in Norwich, CT earlier in the season.

The Tigers enter the NCAA Tournament with a 41-18 record, including a 26-7 mark at home. The Tigers, ranked seventh in the RPI, have won 27 of their last 33 since a 14-12 start.

This will be the 13th time Clemson has played host to a regional. The Tigers have advanced to the Super Regional nine of the 12 years the NCAA Tournament has had this format and Clemson's program has an overall record of 108-77 in NCAA Tournament play. This is Clemson's 36th NCAA Tournament appearance, now tied for fifth in NCAA history with Southern California, who was not selected for the field this year.

Clemson is led offensively by ACC Player of the Year Brad Miller. Clemson's starting shortstop is batting an ACC best .419 with five home runs, 46 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. His .419 average is the best by a Clemson player since Khalil Greene hit .470 in 2002 and second best by a Tiger since 1975. Miller is on pace to become just the third .400 hitter in Head Coach Jack Leggett's 18 years leading the Tiger program.

The Tigers have six .300 hitters overall, leading to a .319 team batting average, the best by a Clemson team since the Tigers 2002 College World Series team. Will Lamb (CF, .344), Phil Pohl (DH, .329), Jeff Schaus (LF, .326), John Hinson (3B, .320) and Richie Shaffer (1B, .311) are all starters batting at least .300. Shaffer leads the team in home runs (11) and RBIs (50).

In addition to Miller, Shaffer was a first-team All-ACC selection, while Schaus, Pohl, and Lamb were second-team selections. Pohl was also a third-team Academic All-American.

Clemson has a balanced, but very effective pitching staff that has five pitchers with at least five wins. The team's 3.12 ERA is the best for a Clemson team since 1996 when top four Major League Draft picks Kris Benson and Billy Koch were on the staff.

Justin Sarratt leads the way with seven wins against two losses. The graduate student has a 2.40 ERA and a 60/13 strikeout/walk ratio. Dominic Leone, Clemson's number-one starter over most of the season, has a 6-2 record in 11 starts and opponents have hit just .207 against the Tiger sophomore from Norwich, CT.

David Haselden leads the team in ERA with a 2.12 figure and has a 5-1 record out of the bullpen to go with a 47/14 strikeout/walk ratio.

Jonathan Meyer has a 5-2 record in 23 appearances, while Kevin Pohle has a 5-1 mark to go with a 1.19 ERA. Kevin Brady, back in action after missing much of the season with an injury, has a 2-0 record, a 1.69 ERA, and an incredible 30/1 strikeout/walk ratio.

In terms of fielding, the Tigers have a .970 percentage, on pace to be the fourth best in Clemson history.

Sacred Heart, Clemson's first round opponent, is coming off winning the Championship of the Northeast Conference. The Pioneers have not played since winning that title on May 22 in Norwich, CT. This will be the first meeting between Clemson and Sacred Heart.

Head Coach Nick Giaquinto's team has 34-21 record, but 18 of the 34 wins have come on the road and five more at neutral sites. Among their victories this year was a 5-4 triumph over UCONN. Sacred Heart finished the year with a 23-9 record in the Northeast Conference.

If Sacred Heart plays UCONN in the regional it will be an interesting situation for Giaquinto, who is a UCONN grad who played football for the Huskies. He is still UCONN's single game rushing yardage leader with 277 yards against Holy Cross in 1976. He was the first UCONN football player to win a Super Bowl Championship ring, as he was a member of the 1982 Washington Redskins. He played four years in the NFL with Washington and Miami.

The team from Fairfield, CT is led at the plate by graduate student J.J. Edwards, who has a .380 batting average in 55 games, 54 as a starter. He has added 30 RBIs and has a .419 on base percentage. M.J. Schifano has a .337 average and has started every game on the infield. Steve Tedesco has a .335 average, one of the reasons the Pioneers have an outstanding .311 average as a team. The team has just 14 home runs all year led by Rob Griffith and Dave Boisture with four apiece.

Troy Scribner is the top pitcher with a 9-2 record and leads the team in strikeouts with 44, while Nick Leiningen has a 7-3 mark with a 3.68 ERA and seven complete games.

UCONN, from Storrs, CT, enters the Clemson Regional with a 41-17-1 record. The Huskies won the regular season of the Big East Conference by 3.5 games, thanks to a 22-7 conference record. Two Huskies, pitcher Matt Barnes, and outfielder George Springer, are predicted to be first-round draft choices in the upcoming Major League Draft by Baseball America.

Springer, a starting outfield from New Britain, CT, is one of those two first round draft choices. He leads the team in hitting with a .361 average and has a team best 12 home runs and 74 RBIs. He has more than double the home run total of any other teammate and has 12 of the team's 32 round trippers. He also has a team best 31 steals in 38 attempts for the Huskies, who are ranked among the top 10 in the nation in stolen bases.

Mike Nemeth is hitting .351 for his 59 games as a starter and has 46 RBIs. L.J. Mazzilli is a .335 hitter to rank third on the team.

Barnes has an 11-3 record and a sparkling 1.12 ERA. The native of Bethel, CT has started 15 games and has 105 strikeouts in 112.1 innings. Opponents are hitting just .162 against Barnes. Gregg Nappo has a 9-2 record with a 2.71 ERA. UCONN has had an outstanding athletic season, starting with an appearance in a BCS Bowl game for the first time, continuing with its NCAA Championship run in basketball, and now its NCAA Baseball Tournament appearance. Clemson and UCONN are two of the 10 schools nationally who have been to a bowl game, the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the NCAA Baseball Tournament this year.

The Huskies are coached by Jim Penders, who has been with the Connecticut program for 19 of the last 21 years as either a player or coach. His uncle, Tom Penders, defeated Clemson on the basketball court as head coach at Texas (1991-92) and George Washington (1999-00).

Coastal Carolina joins Sacred Heart as a program coming off a conference tournament championship. The Chanticleers won the Big South Tournament last weekend with four straight wins, including a 6-1 win over Gardner-Webb in the championship game. Coach Gary Gilmore's team has won eight of its last nine and 16 of its last 19.

Tommy La Stella leads the team in batting with a .391 average and has 11 home runs and 63 RBIs. The RBI total is also first on the team and the home run figure is second. Daniel Bowman leads the team in home runs with 12 and has knocked in 56 runs. Scott Woodward is the only other .300 hitter on the team, but he has a hefty .363 average and has been hit by a pitch 22 times.

Coastal has three strong starters in Matt Rein, who has a 9-2 record and a 1.78 ERA, Antony Meo, who is 9-3 with a 2.21 ERA, and Josh Conway, who is 8-1 with a 2.49 ERA. Coastal Carolina has a 2.85 team ERA, one of the best in the nation.

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