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Tigers not where they want to be, yet

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By Will Vandervort.

By Will Vandervort

Clemson first baseman Jon McGibbon says they just need to stick with it. Head coach Jack Leggett says there are still a few things they need to improve on. However, both agree the Tigers are getting better as a baseball team.

As Clemson (13-7, 3-3 ACC) gets set to take on Duke Friday at 4 p.m. in Game 1 of a three-game series at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, it appears it is ahead of schedule. The pitching is right where most expected the Tigers to be at this time of year, while the defense has taken a major upgrade.

The Tigers currently lead the nation in turning double plays with 18, and they had three in Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over Morehead State. The hitting is also coming along. After struggling earlier in the year, Clemson has had at least 10 hits in five of the last seven games.

“I think we are getting better,” Leggett said. “We have more guys hitting.”

One of those guys has been Tyler Slaton, who has six hits in his last 14 at-bats, while Steven Duggar, Steve Wilkerson and Garrett Boulware continue to be Clemson’s most consistent hitters. Lately, Thomas Brittle and Jon McGibbon have finally started to get on base more.

McGibbon was 2-for-4 Wednesday and drove in three runs to lead Clemson at the plate.

“We just need him to get going,” Leggett said about his first baseman. “I don’t care if he hits singles or doubles. I’m not interested in that. Power numbers are tough to come by for anybody with this ballpark, with these bats and all kinds of things.

“I’m just interested in him being consistent just like all the other players.”

As McGibbon continues to come around, Leggett hopes some of his young players like Tyler Krieger, Shane Kennedy and Maleeke Gibson can do the same.

“We are playing aggressive and hitting the ball hard all over the field,” McGibbon said. “The pitching has been good and we have been playing good defense so I think we are where we need to be and we just need to stay with it.”

The Tigers are definitely in a better place than they were at this point last year. Through 20 games last season, Clemson was 11-9 overall. They finished the season at 35-28, while advancing to the regional finals against South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.

At 13-7, Clemson is two games ahead of that pace and has a chance to add to that this weekend when Duke comes to town. The Tigers have already won a road series in the ACC, something they did not do until the first weekend in April last season when they swept the Blue Devils.

Clemson has already avenged a series to NC State, too, by taking two of three from the Wolfpack earlier this month and then it ended a nine-game losing streak to Virginia last weekend.

“We still have some things we have to continue to work on and I think we will get better and better as time goes on,” Leggett said. “We are getting closer to where we want to be, but we are definitely not where we want to be.

“We have some things that we have to continue to work on and try to get better at. We have some other guys that have to continue to step up.”

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