By Will Vandervort.
It’s no real surprise to anyone, but Matthew Crownover will get the start for No. 3 seed Clemson when it opens the Nashville (Tenn.) Regional against No. 2 Oregon on Friday at Hawkins Field.
The Tigers and the Ducks will play at 1 p.m. on ESPN3.
Though he is honored to get the baseball placed in his hand first in the Nashville Regional, Crownover says this start will be like any other he has had in his two-year career at Clemson.
“People make a big deal about it and it is a big deal to pitch in a regional. It is a huge honor,” he said. “The biggest thing is you have to take it like it is any other game. I don’t think Roy Halladay made it any bigger than any other game when he pitched in his first playoff game and threw a no-hitter.
“I think the biggest thing is to treat this like any other day and go out there and throw. It has been working so far this year.”
Getting the start on a Friday is nothing new for the lefty from Ringgold, Ga. He has been the opening starter on the weekend since April 12 when the Tigers knocked off Pitt, 3-2, in 11 innings. That day he went eight innings and gave up only two runs on eight hits. Since then, he has pitched no less than seven innings in six straight starts as the opening starter.
You have to go back three more starts before Crownover did not go at least seven innings in a start.
“You go out there and you throw to contact and hopefully get late in the game and give our team a chance to win,” he said. “That is all that you can ask for being a starter.”
As a starter, Crownover is 8-5 with a 2.20 ERA and has struck out 83 batters and given up just 19 walks. For his career, he has a 15-8 record and a 2.23 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 3.56.
The Tigers (36-23) have won each of the last two games he has started, including last week’s 5-3 victory over Duke in the ACC Tournament. After giving up an early home run, the lefty went seven and 2/3 innings, while allowing only two runs off five hits.
He also had a career-high nine strikeouts.
This will not be Crownover’s first start in a regional. He got the start in the Tigers’ 3-1 loss to Liberty last June, which eliminated them from the Columbia Regional. He gave up two runs off five hits in four innings of work.
“I was not myself at the end of the year,” he said. “I kind of reached my inning limit so I was playing without much energy and I did not have much left on the ball. I think I’m a lot healthier than I was last year.”
Crownover had “Tommy John” surgery in March of 2012 and was not 100 percent as a freshman in 2013.