By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Jack Leggett’s Hall of Famer career in college baseball started at the University of Maine, where he graduated with honors in 1976,
Leggett was an all-star performer in both baseball and football at Maine. He captained the 1976 Maine squad that advanced to the College World Series, ironically the same year Clemson returned to the CWS after a 17-year absence. The two schools did play, however.
Clemson’s head coach was also a two-time All-Yankee Conference football player as both a defensive back and as a place kicker, where he still holds the school record for the longest field goal made – a 52-yard kick.
But as prideful as he is about all of that, none of that will matter this weekend as Clemson begins a three-game series against Leggett’s alma mater this afternoon at 4 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson.
“It is always fun to play them,” Leggett said. “They are well coached and they are eager to come out side as well.”
Leggett has an 18-18 overall record against Maine, including a 15-1 mark at Clemson. He was 2-13 against them at Vermont and was 1-4 as the head coach at Western Carolina.
“I think (playing Maine) will be good for us and will be a good challenge for us and before it is all over it will help us,” Leggett said.
Maine went down to Miami, Fla., last weekend and beat the Hurricanes on Saturday after nearly beating them on Friday as well.
“There is so much parity in college baseball these days. There is nothing easy about anything. At least anybody we play. It’s not like it used to be where you can just roll out the ball and win. It’s not like that anymore.”
Clemson, ranked 13th in the latest Baseball American Poll, got first-hand knowledge of that last weekend when Eastern Michigan stunned them in 10 innings on Friday and then nearly did the same thing on Sunday as the Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to win the game and the series.
“We learned some lessons this weekend and we have to get better in certain areas in the middle part of the game,” Leggett said.
Leggett was pleased with the way his team played offensively in the opening weekend. The Tigers averaged 6.3 runs per game and hit .284 with a .383 on-base percentage. They also had 10 steals. Catchers Garrett Boulware and Chris Okey combined for nine RBIs, while third baseman Jay Baum and shortstop Tyler Krieger both got off to good starts.
Clemson also put its leadoff batter on base 13 times in 26 opportunities last weekend, and red-shirt freshman Andrew Cox made an immediate impact, going 4-for-9 (.444) with a .615 on-base percentage and two steals.
“I think we have a chance to have a good lineup and we just have to keep working on it,” Leggett said.
Clemson (2-1) also has to keep working on its pitching. Friday and Saturday starters Daniel Gossett and Matthew Crownover got off to good starts, but the middle-inning pitchers struggled a lot as did Sunday starter Jake Long, who yielded four runs on five hits in 2.2 innings of work.
“We just have to keep on playing. We have to get a rhythm going,” Leggett said. “We have to sure up our bullpen and find some guys in the middle of the game and get one or two extra guys pitching for us.
“Our starting pitching was good Friday night and Saturday. It was good for a couple of innings (on Sunday). Then we ran into trouble where they had three or four two-out hits and runs and those kinds of things. We have to be able to shut that down. If we could have got out of that with only two runs scored, we would have been a lot better off… We have to find a couple of more answers in the bullpen.”