Tigers to Play N.C. A&T Friday in NCAA Regional

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - For weeks now Clemson head coach Jack Leggett has lobbied for his team to host an NCAA Regional.

His team's schedule, he said, along with its strong finish was enough to justify there being postseason baseball at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The NCAA agreed, and Sunday announced Clemson as one of the 16 host sites for the regional tournaments.

Monday, the Tigers found out who their three opponents would be in the four team, double-elimination tournament that begins on Friday.

In-state rival College of Charleston will be the regional's No. 2 seed. The Cougars will face No. 3 Oral Roberts in the early game Friday. Clemson will then entertain No. 4 seed North Carolina A&T Friday at 7 p.m.

"We're happy the regional is here. We felt like we deserved to host and it's going to be nice to play in front of our home fans," Leggett said Monday, after his team and the media watched the NCAA Selection Special on ESPN.

"That being said, now it doesn't matter where you're playing. You still have to go out and play your best baseball if you want to advance. This regional is going to be a challenge for us."

The winner of the Clemson regional will face the winner of the Waco, Texas regional in the Super Regionals.

Baylor, the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA's field of 64, is the top seed at its home region. They will face No. 4 seed UT-San Antonio Friday. The other Friday matchup in Waco has No. 2 seed Texas Christian facing No. 3 seed Stanford.

If Clemson is able to win this weekend, the only way it could host a Super Regional would be if Baylor was upset in its own regional tournament.

"We can't even think about that yet," Leggett said. "We've got to focus on this weekend."

As the announcement of the field was made on ESPN, there were audible gasps, laughs and sometimes even scorn among the Tiger players.

Many had tried to examine the field and guess who might be coming to Clemson. Some guessed North Carolina A&T would be one team. Others thought College of Charleston. But the one team most thought would be in town this weekend - Furman - instead wound up at the Georgia Tech Regional in Atlanta.

"It seemed like a natural fit," junior pitcher Josh Cribb said. "But we got College of Charleston, which is very good baseball team."

This will be Clemson's 31st trip to an NCAA Regional dating back to the 1947 season.
The Tigers (39-21) have been to the NCAA Tournament every year since 1987, making College World Series appearances in 1991, 1995, 1996, 2000, and 2002. Clemson's streak of 19 consecutive regionals is the third longest active streak in the country behind Miami (Fla.) with 33 and Florida State's 28 in a row. Clemson's streak is the sixth longest in college baseball history.

The Clemson Regional will include two games each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and a Monday game (June 6) if necessary. It is a double elimination tournament.

Clemson's opening-round opponent, N.C. A&T (27-25) won the MEAC Tournament this past weekend. The Aggies are coached by Keith Shumate, who played for Leggett when he was head coach at Western Carolina.

"I guess I'll have to change the signs now," Leggett joked.

College of Charleston (47-13) was a Top 25 team for most of the season and made a very competitive bid to host a regional. But poor conditions at Riley Field and being upset in the Southern Conference Tournament worked against the Cougars.

Charleston has never beaten Clemson (0-14), including an 8-5 loss at Doug Kingsmore Stadium earlier this season.

Oral Roberts (40-18) won the Mid-Continent Conference title this weekend for the eighth straight time. The Golden Eagles entered the MCC tournament with the seventh best team earned run average (2.95) in the country.

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