This season’s fifth meeting between Clemson and South Carolina on Saturday evening in just another chapter in the Palmetto State rivalry, but this one will hold a little more weight than most meetings. Having split the season series 2-2, the winner of today’s matchup advances to the Championship Round of the College World Series, where they will face the winner of UCLA and TCU. Clemson, playing out of the winner’s bracket after handily beating #1 National Seed Arizona State and Oklahoma, was riding high into Friday night’s contest where they were dispatched in a lackluster 3-hit effort against starting pitcher Michael Roth and the Gamecocks, and are now scrambling to find answers at the plate while South Carolina is riding high after three straight victories.
Clemson will throw Left Handed Junior Casey Harman (8-3, 3.77), who allowed only 3 earned runs to and scattered 7 hits over 6 innings while striking out 5 Sun Devils on his way to victory in their opening round matchup. Junior RHP Sam Dyson (6-5, 4.39) also dispatched of the Sun Devils in his only CWS appearance. While he wasn’t overly impressive, he was effective giving up 8 hits and 4 earned runs while striking out two and giving up three walks in 7.1 innings of work. In previous rivalry matchups this season, both Harman and Dyson pitched well, but both earned no-decisions for their efforts. Here’s a list of things to watch out for Saturday.
History Favors Clemson; Postseason History Favors South Carolina
Clemson holds the overall series advantage of 167-122-1 over South Carolina, yet the 2002 College World Series matchup is all that’s in the minds of Gamecock fans, in which South Carolina fought out of the Losers’ Bracket to win two games by scores of 12-4 and 10-2. That matchup isn’t in the mind of the players, though. The indifference to the 2002 series was summed up best by Mike Freeman of Clemson:
I mean, we weren’t here in ’02. I mean, I don’t really know exactly the history. I know that they have a really good team in ’02. Michael Johnson was a part of it. But as far as that goes, that has nothing to do with this College World Series. They beat us tonight. But we got a game tomorrow and we’re going to come out ready to play.
Jackie Bradley, Jr., Emerging as a Star
Jackie Bradley has been one of the shining stars of the College World Series. He has 2 HR so far, one, a towering shot to right that was about 8 rows from leaving Rosenblatt Stadium, and also an opposite field homerun. Bradley is 7-16 with a CWS leading 9 RBI for the tournament, and provided the game-tying 2-out single against Oklahoma and scored the winning run in walk off fashion to advance to last night’s game against Clemson. He is the star of the potent Gamecock offense hitting out of the 3-hole, currently holding a 20-game hit streak, and is carving out his own place in Rosenblatt Stadium history in the final season at the legendary ball park. His glove isn’t so bad either, making only one error all season. Speaking of gloves and hitting streaks…
Error, Error, Error
Brad Miller is a gaping hole defensively at shortstop for Clemson. In a College World Series that has been highlighted by great defense, Miller has 31 errors on the season, including 2 in Omaha and 3 in one game against Alabama in the deciding game of the Clemson Super Regional. Ironically enough, all of those games were wins for the Tigers. Miller has a 20 game hitting streak of his own, but along with John Hinson at third base (11 errors), that side of the infield is pretty suspect. The official scorers in Omaha have been rather lenient on marking up the E column, but this could be a huge detriment to the Tigers when it matters most. In comparison, the SS-3B combo of Bobby Haney and Adrian Morales is responsible for all of 17 errors this season. I’m not saying the game is going to be decided by infield play, but both of these starting pitchers rely heavily on their defense to make plays to win ballgames.
Clemson Bag Swipers vs. Kyle Enders
Clemson is far and away ahead in the stolen base category with 106 on the season compared to South Carolina’s 48. It will be interesting to see them test the arm of Kyle Enders, as he throws out would be base stealers at a pretty remarkable rate (.541 SBA). Clemson is going against a RHP in Dyson, meaning they can get an step off of first base. It wont matter much if they can get 14 hits like they did against ASU or can find their power again, but team speed is a definite advantage that Clemson has over South Carolina.
Tiger Power Outage
Clemson has registered only 2 extra base hits in College World Series, none of which have left the yard. They were able to scatter 14 hits against Arizona State, all singles, with 4 players registering at least 2 a piece. In comparison, they had 15 extra base hits against Alabama in the three-game Clemson Super Regional. Clemson has put up over 100 more runs than South Carolina over the course of the season, and have 93 homeruns as a team led by Kyle Parker’s 20. Their power just didn’t make the trip to Omaha, but maybe it can show up Saturday.
Close Games, Night Games, Playing From Behind
Clemson is really good when blowing out an opponent, playing a day game, and winning after getting the early lead. What is alarming about the Tigers is that in games decided by two runs or less, they’re 10-16, at night are a mediocre 16-15, and are well below .500 when trailing at any point of the ball game (6-9 when trailing after the first inning, 4-12 after the second inning). In comparison, the Gamecocks are 15-10 in games decided by two runs or less, are night owls with a 26-4 night record, and can play from behind (9-5 when trailing after the first inning, 9-8 when trailing after the second inning).