By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush.
Before the most important day of spring (which actually occurs in winter), here is your Opening Day Five for Friday…
1. Why does baseball get to claim “Opening Day” for itself? Seriously, I’ve never thought about that.
The reason I’ve never thought about it is my love and passion for baseball. We don’t talk about Opening Day for football, basketball, hockey, soccer— pretty much anything else. Yet it carries so much weight in baseball as a title.
It’s not just a title or a designation for us as baseball fans. It’s a signal that spring is coming. It means a new day is dawning. It speaks volumes to the fans of the sport that await its arrival each season.
The rest of you may make fun of us, but Opening Day is a big deal in our hearts. It means baseball is, finally, back.
2. Winning the series is the goal. I will say this a million times between now and Omaha. The only thing that matters in baseball is winning the series.
Of course people want to win every game. Coaches, players, and fans are all in the same boat in that regard. Jack Leggett isn’t conceding results without a fight, even if a series is already wrapped up.
My theory is simply mathematical. There are 13 weekend series for the Clemson baseball team this season, along with one four-game set with James Madison and UNLV after finals week. Winning each of these series would put the Tigers at 29-14 (28-15 if there is a split in the four-gamer) and in prime position to achieve all of their team goals.
Couple that with the midweek games, many of which are manageable wins, and 40 wins should be a minimal expectation for this team. Granted, there will be some tough series, so some sweeps are nice to help balance the scales. A loss in this initial series against Eastern Michigan will set off some alarm bells, but it shouldn’t—not if we keep our eyes on the big picture.
3. Winning series is easier with this pitching staff. I won’t be looking as intently as the offense this weekend as I will be looking at the pitchers taking the hill. Gossett and Crownover give the Tigers a formidable 1-2 punch that should clinch several series before the calendar turns over to Sunday.
In addition, a trio of explosive arms—Patrick Andrews, Matt Campbell, and Clate Schmidt—appears poised to take the ball in the latter innings. If some combination of these three impressive hurlers can shut down the final three innings, this Tiger pitching staff could end up being at the top of the heap in the nation this season.
4. Clemson basketball faces an interesting test in Virginia. The Cavaliers have managed to fly under the radar this season, but I’m not sure how. When you look at this Virginia team, some of the numbers are astounding.
According to Ken Pomeroy, in conference games, Virginia is outscoring its opponents by an average of 21.8 points per 100 possessions—a staggering statistic. The Cavs have allowed only 87.9 points per 100 possessions against ACC opponents, which is a whopping 9.8 points more than the next best team.
In addition, Virginia leads the conference in the following defensive categories: efficiency, effective field goal percentage, two-point percentage, turnover rate, and defensive rebounding rate. In its current eight-game winning streak, Virginia has won six times by double figure margins. That stretch includes a road win at Pitt and convincing home wins against Florida State, North Carolina, and Maryland.
Needless to say, that’s a tough test for Brad Brownell’s bunch.
5. Clemson’s best chance may be the elements. There’s no question this has been a weird week. Wintry weather has thrown everything out of kilter. Schedules have basically been ripped to shreds by historic snow and ice accumulation.
Virginia is not immune to this dynamic, and now it must play a noon game on the road at the end of this crazy week. We all know how unpredictable noon starts can be sometimes, so if the Littlejohn atmosphere is a quality one, don’t be stunned if Clemson doesn’t make some headway early on with a chance to set the tone in the game.
It’s worth noting that this may be the least likely Clemson win of the remaining games, so a victory would inspire great confidence in this team’s ability to play high-stakes games in March.