Virginia continued their great season last weekend with a series victory over the Pitt Panthers, and followed it up on Tuesday with a demolishment of James Madison. They hope to continue their great play and decade long dominance over the Tigers (20-12, 9-5) this weekend as Clemson comes to Davenport.
The Tigers entered the year with high expectations yet again. Having been sent to their instate rival's Regional the past two seasons, many around Clemson were hoping to host the Gamecocks this season and enact some revenge. That idea was great until the season started and the Tigers were swept by USC in early March. The Tigers regained form through ACC season putting together a nice 8-3 record in the conference until last weekend when they lost two of three to the Wolfpack to drop to 9-5 and third in the Atlantic Division, 3.5 games behind FSU.
Historically, Clemson owns the series against UVa winning 102 of 153 games. The 90s were a great decade for Clemson, and not so much for UVa. That all changed when Jack Leggett's arch-nemesis, Brian O'Connor, came to Charlottesville. Since then, UVa is 23-5 against the Tigers, and have won every series since 2005. On top of that, UVa is an impressive 11-1 against Clemson in the friendly confines of Davenport Field. Last year, the two teams played a spring break series in Clemson that saw UVa steal a Friday game thanks to Mike Papi and win the series 2-1.
Statistically, Clemson is the best offensive team in the ACC. They rank first in batting average and slugging`largely due to six of their main players batting above .300. At the top is senior infielder Steve Wilkerson. He enters the week batting .347 with 24 runs and 18 RBI, while leading the team with 4 home runs. The key to their offense looks to be sophomore Steven Duggar. Duggar is batting .320, but has 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts. Need to minimize his time on base to keep Clemson in check.
The Tigers aren't nearly as good on the mound, and that is where UVa should be able to win the games. They have a 4.17 ERA which places them at 12th in the ACC and average more than 5 runs allowed per game. They also give up over 8 hits and 4 walks per game which bode well for the Cavaliers. The key will be to establish a comfortable lead before the Tigers can go to their closer, Matt Campbell. Campbell has a 0.45 ERA and 6 saves on the year in 16 appearances.
Clemson is good and a series loss would not be the end of the world for the Cavaliers. But Coach O'Connor has Jack Leggett's number, and Leggett knows it. Couple that with the Davenport Faithful's disdain for Jack and it should make for an interesting weekend. I think UVa drops a close one due to a lack of timely hits, but takes the series overall. Should be a fun one to watch.