By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Is 11th-ranked Clemson looking past today’s game against Presbyterian and ahead to this weekend’s encounter with No. 3 South Carolina?
You bet they are.
Though the Tigers (5-1) should not be thinking about the South Carolina series at all when they host PC at 4 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, everyone knows they are. The Clemson-South Carolina baseball series is one of the best, if not the best, rivalries in college baseball and it is understandable if the Tigers are caught peaking at the big three-game series which will be played in Columbia on Friday (7 p.m.), Greenville on Saturday (2 p.m.) and in Clemson on Sunday (4 p.m.).
Clemson catcher Garrett Boulware admits they see the South Carolina series, but they also understand they have to play Presbyterian first.
“Theoretically? Yes, but it shouldn’t,” the junior said. “We should sit there and just play PC. I will not even call it a warm up. It is another game to get us ready for what is ahead. It is another challenge and another team to help us hone in on our skills and work on everything that we have.
“I think it will be a good little game for us on Tuesday.”
It should be a good game for the Tigers. The Blue Hose come in with a 4-2-1 record thus far and will start left-hand pitcher Brian Kehner, which means it will be the second straight game the Tigers have faced a lefty. The Gamecocks are scheduled to throw two lefties at the Tigers this weekend.
Clemson banged out 10 runs on 12 hits in Sunday’s win over Maine, running off lefty Scott Heath before the third inning was over. He gave up nine runs on eight hits, a week after beating then No. 17 Miami on the road.
“The key is to not change anything,” said Boulware, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the win. “Do exactly what you are doing and don’t think about who you are playing. Just keep playing your own game.
“It does not matter who you are playing or who you are playing in front of. Just play your game and keep letting it go.”
Clemson has been letting it go so far this season. The Tigers are hitting .329 as a team and have scored 47 runs in six games thus. In the last two games of the Maine series, Clemson totaled 23 runs on 30 hits.
Currently six Tigers are hitting .300 or better in the starting lineup, including shortstop Tyler Krieger, who is hitting .500 and right field Steven Duggar who has a 15-game hitting streak dating back to last year. Duggar is batting .333.
Even freshman Chris Okey—who is hitting .280—is in on the act, especially with runners in scoring position. He leads the team with 10 RBIs after the first two weeks of the season.
“From one to nine we have really good hitters so they cannot pitch around any of us,” said Boulware, who is hitting .429 with nine RBIs through six games. “A couple of years ago we had guys like Richie Shaffer and Phil Pohl and you could pitch around them to get to the rest of the lineup and you were okay. From one to nine we are pretty solid.
“So if you pitch around one guy, then you have a guy on base and then you will have another kid up at bat that is going to be just as good of a hitter. It makes it really tough on their team to pitch around us.”
The Tigers have been making it tough for teams to hit on them too. Right now Clemson pitchers have a 2.95 ERA and have thrown 50 strikeouts to only eight walks. Opponents are hitting just .261 thus far.
Clemson will start Zack Erwin this afternoon against PC.
“We have done a good job throwing strikes for the most part and when we have gotten behind we have been tough enough to get back in the count,” Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. “That is a good ratio. If we can keep that ratio up all season long then that will be really special.”
Clemson just hopes it can make this week special when it is all said and done.
“We have some tough games ahead,” Leggett said. “We have a tough game on Tuesday against Presbyterian and then a big weekend after that. We just have to go one weekend at a time and hopefully keep building on things.”