CLEMSON -- Jack Leggett has had baseball teams which thrived following a week off for finals. He's had others which have come back from the layoff sluggish and out of synch.
How this Clemson team - 28-18 with 10 games remaining in the season - reacts to having off exam week remains to be seen. But the veteran coach has a hunch the week-long respite will be more of a blessing than a detriment.
"I really think our pitching needed the rest," Leggett said Friday. "Our starters have been working quite a bit, and it's possible this break came at a good time for us."
Clemson's pitching has been one of the team's strengths for most of the 2005 season.
But in the last month the Tigers' team ERA has been steadily increasing. Heading into the April 5 game at the University of Georgia, the staff ERA was a sparkling 3.23.
As Sunday's first game of the three-game road series at Virginia Tech looms, the team ERA sits at 4.05 - still very good, but a rise of over 3/4 of a run per game within a span of the last 20 games.
"Our guys have been pretty good at keeping us in games, but they just seem to be a little worn down," Leggett said.
There may be an explanation for the staff's tiring, however. And it centers on a pair of incidents less than three weeks apart.
A rainout on April 1 forced Clemson and Florida State to fit three games into a two-day time period. The Sunday doubleheader on April 3 taxed Leggett's bullpen, and threw the rotation off-kilter for the next week.
Then, after the April 12 game at Western Carolina was suspended by rain in the fifth inning, the Tigers and Catamounts finished it the next week at Clemson and played the regularly-scheduled game the same evening. This time it was a total of 14 innings of baseball in a single day which threw the bullpen and starting rotation out of whack.
Now, with a week off to get everyone rested and - hopefully - back on rhythm - Clemson makes its final push toward the postseason beginning with the Sunday-Tuesday series in Blacksburg, Va.
At 13-8 in the ACC with nine conference games remaining, Leggett believes the team's early-season goals are still within reach. And though Virginia Tech (19-21, 4-13 ACC) is languishing near the league basement, Leggett isn't inclined to chalk up an easy three wins before the bus pulls out today.
"They've got a really good lefthanded pitcher (Ryan Kennedy, 5-5, 3.12 ERA) who's been the ACC Pitcher of the Week twice," Leggett said. "They haven't won a lot in the conference, but that doesn't mean we can take them lightly. We have to go into this series focused and understanding what lies ahead.
"We can't afford to overlook anyone."
Leggett said his pitchers for the first two games are set.
Sophomore Steven Faris (4-2, 2.33) will start Sunday afternoon, with junior Josh Cribb (3-4, 4.48) slated for Monday night.
Leggett said Tuesday's starter in the series finale would come from one of three choices - lefty Robert Rohrbaugh (5-2, 4.63) or righthanders Kris Harvey (5-3, 4.84) or David Kopp (3-3, 4.32).
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.