Tigers Hope to Ride Hogs to Omaha

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Last weekend's romp through the NCAA Regionals was old times for Clemson's baseball team - old times being the first 40 or so games of this season.

The Tigers hit early, they hit often and they hit with an abundance of power. And on the rare occasion they didn't hit, the pitching was good enough to carry the team to victory.

Clemson, the No. 2 national seed, hopes to keep the winning formula in place as it begins Super Regional play tonight (7 p.m.) vs. Arkansas at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers, hosting the best two-of-three series with the Razorbacks, have reached the Super Regional every season since the formula was instituted four years ago.

So, needing just two victories over an Arkansas team that was on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament before winning the Wichita State Regional, Jack Leggett's Tigers begin their final step toward the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

What do they need to do to get there?

- Don't take Arkansas lightly. Sure, the Razorbacks struggled for a good portion of the season. And yes, South Carolina handed Arkansas easily twice in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. But the Razors are playing their best baseball of the season, having won 8 of their last 15 games;

- Keep swinging the bats. Getting away from Florida State's pitching staff obviously had a good effect on the Clemson hitters, though even the Seminoles couldn't slow Khalil Greene. The suddenly hot bat of Zane Green has vaulted him to the status of leadoff hitter, and he needs to stay hot and set the table for the big guys - Khalil Greene, Jeff Baker and Michael Johnson. Look for Johnson to be a big key. If he's hot, it gives the Clemson lineup a whole different feel;

- Don't be distracted. Eight Clemson players were taken in Tuesday and Wednesday's Major League Baseball Draft, some of them in spots so high that returning to school next year is highly unlikely. But the professional careers - and most importantly the pending negotiations - won't take place until after the season is over. Keep your focus, have a better chance of winning.

- Pitch, pitch, pitch. During its recent 13-game stretch, Arkansas has averaged nearly seven runs per game. Clemson's pitching staff - led by starters Steve Reba, Matt Henrie and Tyler Lumsden - need to cut that number more than in half. No matter what level of baseball you're talking about, good pitching always stops good hitting.

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