CLEMSON - Baseball is a game of rhythm and timing. Constant work, both on game day and in practice, is required to keep players performing at the highest level.
But what if you've only played one game in little more than a month?
Such is the plight of North Carolina A&T, Clemson's first-round opponent in today's NCAA Regional Tournament at Doug Kingsmore Stadium (7 p.m.) The Aggies (27-25) won the MEAC Tournament title back on May 1, and has played just one game since - a makeup game with the University of Virginia some two weeks later.
Save for that one game, Keith Shumate's team has been limited to intersquad work at practice. Hardly the ideal conditions for postseason success.
Facing those kind of odds will be bad enough. Facing a Clemson (39-21) team playing its best baseball of the season heading into this tournament makes it even worse.
So the last thing Tigers' head coach Jack Leggett wants to do is give the Aggies any early confidence.
"It's been tough on them, I'm sure," he said. "But we need to make sure we keep it tough on them. We need to come out and play the kind of baseball we're capable of playing from the very first pitch of this tournament."
One way Leggett will do that is lead with his No. 1 starter, Stephen Faris.
Faris (6-4, 2.55) has been outstanding in his last three starts, a stretch which has seen the sophomore go 2-1 at the top of the Tigers' rotation. Even the one loss, vs. Virginia in the ACC Tournament, saw Faris pitch into the eighth inning and allowed just two earned runs.
Prior to that Faris beat both Wake Forest and Miami, going the distance against the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem.
North Carolina A&T will counter with its ace, junior Michael Hauff. Hauff (8-4, 2.74) has struck out 129 batters in 101 2/3 innings, while walking just 26.
"Their pitcher is a good one," Leggett said. "We'll have to be ready, have to stay aggressive early in the count."
The Aggies are led at the plate by sophomore third baseman Charlie Gamble (.328, 12 homers and 47 RBIs). Their team specialty of late has been scoring two-out runs. In its last 25 games (18-7) A&T has hit .325 and driven in 82 runs with two outs.
- Clemson shortstop Stan Widmann, who missed two practices this week with strep throat, should be healthy and ready to play tonight, according to Leggett;
- Clemson has won 11 of its last 13 games, and 24 of its last 32, after starting the season 15-13.