Inside Omaha

by - Senior Writer -
John Hinson has been on fire and is now 19-for-37 (.501) in the NCAA Tournament. (photo: fotoman)

OMAHA -- Greetings from another day in Omaha...where the Clemson Tigers have an off day and will visit the zoo across the street from the ballpark as they await the winner of today's South Carolina and Oklahoma game, with Clemson taking on the victor in that one.

Today's off day will be good, as Jack Leggett said in yesterday's press conference, to get the pitchers rested. The good thing for Clemson is that they haven't really gotten the bats hot -- if they do that then watch out.

Here are just a few of the things we've seen and heard out here.

*First thing is this -- ran into Jim Jackson recently, who was the home plate umpire for Clemson's opening game against Arizona St., and he turns out to be quite an interesting fellow. He told me that the first-ever regional game he umpired was in the regional held in Fayetteville, Arkansas back in 1999, and he was behind the plate for Jack Leggett's Tigers.

This is Jackson's first-ever umpiring gig at the College World Series, and once again the first game he umpires he is behind the plate for Leggett and the Tigers. He told me he has a lot of respect for Leggett and the Clemson program.

He said that to him, there were two keys that he saw for Clemson, at least from his vantage point: 1. Clemson pitchers Casey Harman and Alex Frederick had outstanding tempo. There was no stalking around the mound or fidgeting, they just grabbed the ball and went after the ASU hitters. He said Harman was outstanding at hitting the black all game long, at least until he tired in the seventh. 2. He said the Clemson hitters showed outstanding patience at the plate, and really didn't swing at too many balls out of the strike zone.

Lastly, he said he was really impressed with Clemson catcher Spencer Kieboom. He said the freshman calls a good game, did a good job of keeping the ball off of the umpire, and has cannon for an arm. He thinks he's gonna be a good one.

*Another cool thing that happened after the ASU game took place in the post-game interview room. The interview room is the Hall of Fame Room, which is just off the concourse and sits right beside the Clemson locker room. While Arizona St. players and head coach Tim Esmay were trying to answer questions about the loss, a huge cheer erupted as apparently a few Clemson players ducked out of the locker room.

Next thing you know, a cadence count started, very loudly, and ended with another enthusiastic cheer that was so loud the ASU guys had to stop and wait for the noise to die down.

*The general feeling amongst the citizens of Omaha is that they have adopted Clemson as "their team" for this tournament. The Tigers come in as the 8th seed, travel well, and when you talk to the people here, a lot of them believe the Tigers have the ability to pull this one off. Everywhere we go, people see the Tiger paws and immediately smile and tell us they are pulling for the Tigers.

*The emergence of Alex Frederick as a force in the Clemson bullpen has also been a good story. He has two saves in the College World Series after registering two in the regular season. I asked him yesterday if he could go back-to-back days if the Tigers need him, and he said yes. However, I asked pitching coach Dan Pepicelli if Frederick was the "closer" at this point, and he said no. He said Frederick was more like the stopper. He is the guy that Pep and Leggett will go to when they need a key out. Pep said that might be in the fifth inning; could be the seventh or even the ninth.

*John Hinson is on fire right now. He is now 19-for-37 in the NCAA Tournament, which is a shade over .500. That adjustment he made against Southern Miss during the Auburn Regional has paid off big-time. He said during that game, the first one of the regional, he made a tiny adjustment with his hands and his stride, and has been raking since then.

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