Notebook: Catching Up From South Florida


by - Correspondent -
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. - A few thoughts the morning of get-away day...

***

It's been a struggle here for Clemson through the first two games of this ACC Series with Miami.

The Tigers have had a few moments where things have gone very well, but have been unable to sustain any sort of momentum against the No. 2 Hurricanes. The Saturday night game, especially, was difficult because of the circumstances.

Graham Stoneburner, who has been this team's most consistent starter since the opening weekend of the season, was handed a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning and couldn't make it stand up. Like D.J.Mitchell the night before, Stoneburner didn't have his best command or location and consistently found himself pitching behind in the count.

You can get away with that vs. lesser teams, and Mitchell was able to overcome one very bad inning Friday to keep the Tigers in the game heading into the late innings. But Stoneburner wasn't so lucky. The three-run home run Jemile Weeks hit chased the redshirt freshman, and tied the game at 5-5.

It was still just a 7-5 game until a couple of little-used guys out of the bullpen - Trey Delk and Alex Martin - struggled during the 'Canes eight-run eighth inning.

And that, as they say, was that.

***

Speaking of pitching, the more time I spend with Kyle Bunn - the pitching coach who replaced the departed Kevin O'Sullivan - the more I like him.

His pitching philosophy fits perfectly with what Jack Leggett wants out of his hurlers, and he seems to have a great handle on not only what he's doing but how to implement his plan. Sometimes that's more than half the battle.

In an interview we did before the second Georgia game last week, we spent a great deal of time talking about the mental aspect of the game - how a pitcher handles himself on the mound through both good times and bad, and how he must battle to keep his team in a game on a night he doesn't have his best stuff, or perhaps working through an error committed by one of his teammates.

We saw a classic example of that on Friday night.

Mitchell, who was having trouble with his location from the outset, was behind to virtually every hitter. It came back to haunt him in the second inning when Blake Tekotte's three-run homer gave the 'Canes a 4-0 lead.

But Mitchell was able to keep his composure, and even though he never really found the groove, kept Miami off the board for the next four innings. Meanwhile, his teammates battled back to tie the game and send it to the ninth at 4-4.

That's the mark of a good pitcher. Keeping your team in the game when you're not sharp.

***

Speaking of Friday's ninth inning, you'd have to have seen Yonder Alonso's game-winning home run to understand just how far he hit the thing.

It landed on top of a four-story parking garage located behind the right field fence, and there's no telling how far it would have gone had it been allowed to continue its downward flight.

That one had a legitimate chance to travel 500 feet.

***

The tough stretch for this team continues.

After the finale here in Miami Sunday, five of the next six games are against the Carolinas, North and South.

Somehow they have to find a way to at least tread water over that time frame. But the psyche of a young team can be fragile, at times.

It will be intriguing to see how they handle this first major adversity of the season.

***

Finally, happy 40th birthday to hitting coach Tom Riginos.

He celebrated Saturday, getting the chance to have lunch with his parents and sister who are in town for the series. Celebrated, that is, until the eighth inning Saturday night.

But such are the hazards of his profession.

Happy Birthday, TR.

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