By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
One thing is for certain, whenever he does get the ball this weekend in the NCAA Columbia Regional, whether it’s in Friday’s game against Liberty or maybe in a rematch against rival South Carolina on Saturday, Clemson pitcher Daniel Gossett knows he is likely to get booed by the thousands of Gamecock supporters that will be on hand.
“It’s always going to be like that. It is expected,” Gossett said. “We just love them and they just love us so much.”
Clemson’s ace says he loves pitching in environments like Carolina Stadium because it proves that the game really matters to them.
“We know it is going to be a good atmosphere. We are going to hear from the fans,” he said. “I’m excited about it. That means it matters. When you go on the road sometimes and there are only a couple of hundred fans there, it doesn’t really matter.
“But when you have 8,000 plus screaming at you, it tells you it matters and it makes you feel good about yourself.”
Gossett, like most athletes do, usually performs better on the bigger stage. Take last year’s Columbia Regional matchup with top-seeded South Carolina. The Lyman, SC native held the Gamecocks to two runs on four hits in seven innings of work, out pitching All-American and two-time national champion Michael Roth. He left the game after the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead. USC rallied to tie the game in the eighth inning and ultimately won the game, 4-3, in 12 innings.
“That was one of my better starts,” Gossett said. “If we can have another one of those, that would be fantastic.”
The righty has done the same this season. He went to Florida State, the No. 8 national seed, and pitched six scoreless innings, while scattering three hits in six innings of work in the Tigers’ last win. He also three-hit Miami in seven scoreless innings and had 10 strikeouts and gave up just one run on five hits in seven innings against Georgia Tech.
“The biggest part of developing is being able to take yourself out of a situation, and being able to realize it is the same pitch no matter where you are,” Gossett said. “If you are in the bullpen or pitching against South Carolina at the regionals, it is the same pitch.
“You can’t put more emphasize on a pitch because of the situation. I feel like the sooner you realize it is all about the pitch and all about the process that’s when you can make that jump from freshman, ‘Oh no it’s a regional!’ to ‘Let’s go get it!’ This is pitching, this is what I do.”
On March 1, Gossett held the Gamecocks (39-19) to three hits and one earned run in six and 1/3 innings of work, but USC ultimately won the game, 6-0.
“You have 10,000 people staring at you and they want you to mess up so they can be heavy and yell at you,” he said. “It can be a little nerve racking but you have to get back to that process. You have to be about the pitch instead of the situation.”
Gossett will not lie. He says he and everyone else on the team can hear the fans in places like Carolina Stadium, but he says the key to surviving in those kinds of environments is being able to embrace it and use it to your advantage.
For the most part, Clemson has done a good job of that this year. The Tigers (39-20) have beaten teams like NC State, North Carolina and Florida State on the road this season, despite starting two freshmen and a sophomore on the mound and then as many as four freshmen in the lineup as well as two other sophomores.
“I think we will (okay),” Gossett said. “We got a bunch of young guys and they will be excited about it, I guarantee it. I don’t know if they have ever been a part of something like that, I know I hadn’t before last year. The attitude and confidence these guys have, they will not be nervous. They will be excited, and anxious to play. I think we will be fine.”