Tigers looking forward to ACC Tournament after recent hot streak

by - Senior Writer -

The Clemson Tiger baseball team enters the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship on a bit of a roll, and Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said he thinks that is a sign that his young team is gaining maturity at the right time.

So far, we are very pleased in how we have played recently,” Leggett told the media in a press conference Monday morning. “We have won 14 of our last 17, and I think 18 of 22 (actually 18 of their last 23), and we played well this past weekend at N.C. State.

“The offense is starting to come together, and we had some big innings in each game this past weekend. Our pitching has been really good, and we’ve e had pretty good defense. This team is maturing. The young kids are starting to grow up, which is a good thing heading into the ACC Tournament.”

The Tigers (39-17 overall, 19-11 in ACC play) will play the sixth game of the tournament, which is being held Wednesday through Sunday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. The third-seeded Tigers will play sixth-seeded Virginia, a team they have not played this season, on Thursday night at 8 p.m.

Under the pool-play format, each team will play one game against each of the other three opponents in its division Wednesday-Saturday (May 20-23). The two teams with the best records within their respective division brackets will advance to the title game on Sunday, May 24, with the winner earning the ACC's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

”Virginia has a real solid ballclub,” Leggett said. “On offense, they have three or four guys who are all-conference type players, and a freshman pitcher (lefty Danny Hultzen, who was recently named the ACC Freshman of the Year) who is a freshman of the year type. They are going to be a real challenge for us. We are going to pitch Trey Delk, and he will go out there and give us some competitive innings.”

Leggett said that waiting until late Thursday night to play, instead of on Wednesday like other teams, will make the ACC tourney a little more difficult for his Clemson squad.

Because of the 8 o’clock star, we have to win four games in really two-and-a-half days,” Leggett said. “That is going to be a good challenge for us. We are promised three games, and we will take them one game at a time. We have a good bracket with us, Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. It will be a good challenge for our team.”

Leggett did say that the Tigers are healthy going into the tournament, saying, “Everybody is healthy and got their work in this past weekend. Everybody should be rested and ready to go. I don’t see anybody in rough shape physically.”

The Tigers enter the tournament having gone 5-0 over the last week, winning 8-5 over Furman, 5-2 over College of Charleston, and then swept the Wolfpack in Raleigh (13-8, 11-5, 5-4). During the week, the Tigers outscored their opposition 42-24 and hit .333 with a .492 slugging percentage and .423 on-base percentage thanks to 27 walks against only 24 strikeouts while tallying 11 stolen bases. The pitching staff had a 4.00 ERA and .266 opponents' batting average along with 40 strikeouts against 18 walks in 45.0 innings pitched. The Tigers also committed just three errors in five games, good for a .984 fielding percentage.

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