Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 2: Thoughts on Liberty, the Armpit, and the Road to Omaha

Welcome back Offense
A team that rarely hits homeruns just erupted for three, totaling six runs.

First thought: This is good for the Clemson offense to find some runs without having to play small ball. This team has struggled to plate runners and get timely hits with runners in scoring position. Sometimes the cure is bring everyone in at once. Hopefully this creates some confidence, which could carry over to tomorrow.

Second thought: Great for Wilkerson. He has been absolutely lost over the last week or so, but hopefully getting this offense jump started also jump starts his game. And it also seemed to affect his defense as he made some nice plays and great throws.

Third thought: No wonder USC out homered us 2.5:1 on the year

There's Still More There
While the Tiger's found some offensive success, they're still capable of more. So for, their offensive MVP and clean-up hitter is hitless. In fact, in the two game, three positions (C/LF/DH) have combined to account for a total of one hit. Jack has tried a few combos, but to no avail.

If a couple of these guys (especially Boulware) can get hot, Clemson can make a run. But they will need at least one to get it going just to make it through Sunday.

Gossett Battled
By no means did Daniel Gossett have his best stuff today, but he really worked hard and made pitches when needed, and ultimately limited Saint Louis to just two runs.

I personally did not think the decision to hold Gossett back for today was the best decision, but after seeing him pitch, I think it was the right decision. And here's why:

A: I don't think he beats Liberty on Friday. The jams he got himself into were similar to what Erwin & Andrews got into, and it ultimately cost those guys. Liberty would have capitalized on a few of those and Clemson would have still lost, although it may have been closer.

B: Being in the loss column with your ace having already taken the mound is a good feeling. Clemson was able to come out with some confidence knowing their main guy was backing them.

Gravity Sucks, but it's the Law
Yesterday, Liberty looked like it belonged. Today, they looked like fodder for Spurrier's Florida teams. Everything that went right for them yesterday, went wrong today. Every swing that found a hole Friday missed entirely today. Literally, as Montgomery retired the side in the first two innings by strikeout.

But credit to USC as they did something Clemson could not do Friday - get timely hits. Clemson had a chance to put a large number on the board in the first inning Friday, but reverted to the inept Clemson team we saw in Durham. South Carolina removed any doubt by dropping three in the first and four more in the third.

Tomorrow is a New Day
Clemson has tasted winning for the first time since Thursday, May 16th, and it tastes good. But today's win does not guarantee a chance to face USC. It only offers them the chance to play tomorrow afternoon. USC still lurks in the evening shadows, and Clemson must dispatch a team that just manhandled them to play hide n seek with the Gamecocks.

But just like today presented a new opportunity, so does tomorrow. Clemson can prove Friday was a fluke. If they can do that, they will get a chance to do to USC what they have done to Clemson twice - advance over their rival from the loser's bracket.

Tomorrow Will be a Long Day
Someone will be working overtime on the Sabbath. The winner of the afternoon game gets a shot at undefeated South Carolina in the nightcap, and must defeat the Gamecocks twice to advance. If either team can force this regional to Monday, they will have put a full day's work in on a typical day of rest (but these guys are young - and if they lose, they have all summer to rest).

At least Columbia is a nice, cool, refreshing city to play baseball in. Never mind...

Clemson has the Arms
While it's never easy to advance from the loser's bracket, Clemson does have one distinct advantage: quality arms, and a lot of them. Sitting rested in the bullpen are Crownover, Firth, Campbell, & Schmidt. Crownover will most likely get the afternoon start with Schmidt or Firth getting the call in game two.

Also, with there being no tomorrow, Erwin & Andrews could potentially be brought back in specialty situations, or even be ready to start a Monday game, if needed.

Big Boys Showed Up
Yesterday, neither the ACC nor the SEC really represented as the 1st and 2nd strongest conferences, especially with losses to teams like Liberty, Bryant, Bill & Mary, & Austin Peay.

Today, both conferences bounced back. The ACC went 7-1, with all 8 teams still in play, while the SEC went 8-1 (or is nearing completion of going 8-1), with only Florida being elilminated*

*If I were Florida, I think I would have rather stayed home than go 0-2 against Austin Peay and Valpo.

Tomorrow, four ACC schools and three SEC schools will try to lock up regionals, while the remainder of the schools try to stay alive.

True to Form
At the time of these thoughts, only one host school (Va Tech) has been relegated to the lower's bracket, and all host schools remain in the tournament.

Additionally, 12 of the 16 schools eliminated have been 4 seeds, and no 1 or 2 seed has been eliminated.

Thank You Kind Sir, May I Have Another?
Here's to putting another late night edition together tomorrow night as Clemson prepares to play a winner-take-all affair on Monday.

Go Tigers!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thoughts on Liberty, the Armpit, and the Road to Omaha

Don't Blame UNC
When the first pitch was tossed between Clemson and Miami, you knew it wouldn't be close. The question would be whether they would be doing the giving or the receiving. Unfortunately, it was the receiving. And the route was on.

You could easily blame the Miami fiasco on the previous night's UNC meltdown. But I don't buy what many Clemson folk are selling - that the performance against Liberty was a continued hangover. No way. Not when that game was a week ago. Not with a group of 18-21 year olds. Not with a group of coaches with 20+ years experience. Not when playing in the NCAA Tournament. Not when playing in Columbia. And certainly not when playing against a team that fared better against USC than you did.

Blame the 1st Inning
This game was lost in the first 15 minutes. Erwin looked crisp in getting to two strikes, only to watch his out pitch get bounced in the stands. Liberty then showed Clemson they knew how to play by advancing a runner and scoring him on a sac fly.

In the bottom of the inning, Clemson had a chance to take control of the game and show the bats were back. The first three batters reached safely, with team MVP at the plate. And he was told to bunt, something he hadn't done all season. He failed. So did the next two batters, and Liberty escaped with the game tied.

Clemson rarely threatened the rest of the way.

In the first inning, Liberty showed they were ready and focused, and would do what they do. Clemson tried to be someone different, only to fail. Increased hope for Liberty. New downward spiral for Clemson.

Today is a New Day
Luckily for Clemson, they get an early chance to redeem themselves. Luckily for Clemson, all expectations have been removed, including ESPN. Luckily for Clemson, Saint Louis is on their own downward spiral.

After the Billikins tied the game in the top of the 8th, they proceeded to implode in the bottom half, allowing SCAR to plate 4 runs. Maybe that will work to the Tigers' advantage.

I think it will, and I expect Clemson to find some offensive rhythm against this Saint Louis staff.

Is Liberty for Real?

The Liberty trained just picked up all Clemson and ACC fans, but will it help? Can Liberty dispatch USC, and position themselves to advance? Possibly, but not likely.

Liberty won't get the same pitching performance in round 2, nor will SCAR play into their hands. In the end, Liberty may keep it close, but it won't be enough to propel them past the Gamecocks.

Hopefully Clemson gets a second chance at the Flames on Sunday afternoon.

Not a Great Day for the Big Boys
After Day 1, the ACC stands at 5-3 while the SEC is 4-5. But more than the records, check out the losses:

  • Liberty
  • Austin Peay
  • Bryant (who?)
  • Troy
  • Bill & Mary
  • UC Santa Barbara (Suck it! says the Psych! office)
The only win over a BCS caliber conference is Miami's emotional win over Oklahoma State.

Being a Host is Where It's At 
While the ACC is 5-3, four of those wins were by host schools, while non-host schools were 1-2. For the SEC, all four wins came from host schools, while non-hosts were 0-5.

Today will further separate the wheat from the chaff as non-host schools begin working their way through the loser's bracket. Expect those numbers to rise, slightly.

Where are the Minds of Miami, Saint Louis, & Oklahoma State? 
I can't think of a game with more non-baseball storylines than yesterday's Miami & Oklahoma State game. Miami is without their Hall of Fame (and National Championship) coach, who stayed behind battling pneumonia.

In the other dugout was Oklahoma State, still pulling pieces together from the previous tornados, had to learn another band was coming through their state. (How ironic that they played against a team with a national disaster as a mascot). 

Similar to Oklahoma State was Saint Louis, whose hometown and campus, was in the patch of the most recent tornado band. You could tell they played with heart and emotion, and you could see that emotion deflate as SCAR took control in the bottom of the 8th.

Another One, Kind Sir? 
Hopefully they'll be another version tomorrow as Clemson stays alive and readies themselves to play Liberty or USC in another elimination game.

Go Tigers!