If the Cavaliers want to prove to the college baseball skeptics that their 15-1 record is no fluke and that they deserve to be ranked as high as they are, the first step will be to take care of business this weekend in South Carolina. Most believe (including this guy) the impressive early record is just a product of an easy early out of conference schedule. They can't rely too heavily on their series win against Maryland last weekend as Maryland is well, Maryland.This weekend though, big boy baseball really begins.
Clemson is widely regarded as just outside the Top 25, but still expect them to make their yearly appearance in the NCAA tournament. So far the Tigers have been good, but not great. They've compiled a 12-5 record winning all of their series except for their annual inter-state matchup with South Carolina. Clemson also has two (semi)headscratching losses to Winthrop in a midweek game and William and Mary their opening weekend. I don't put too much in to those losses but are interesting to note.
If UVa has a clear advantage in any form other than coaching (more later), it is certainly hitting. Clemson is hitting a paltry .248 as a team (UVa - .313) and only slugging .332 (UVa - .487). They've also only hit 5 home runs to go along with striking out 103 times as a team! Seriously, I don't know what is going on down there, but I hope the Cavaliers don't catch any of it because those numbers are ugly.
Clemson's Sophomore Garrett Boulware has been their lone bright spot being the only batter over .300 with a .333 average. He also leads the team in Home Runs with 2, slugging percentage at .571, and just under the RBI lead with 11.
It appears the real aspect the Hoos will have to deal with will be Clemson's running game. They have 33 stolen base attempts and 24 successes on the year. Three Tigers have more than five stolen bases already and look to run just about every time they get on base. Cavalier pitchers are going to have to keep Clemson off the base paths and honest if they ever do reach first so Nate Irving can have a chance if they do take off.
The Cavaliers and Tigers look to be about even on the rubber. Both teams are going to end the year ranked near the top of the conference, if not the country in pitching statistics and have showed that early on. All three starters for the Tigers this weekend will enter their respective games with under 2 ERAs. To match their starters they have a shutdown bullpen that features junior Matt Campbell who also has under a 2 ERA with four saves in six appearances already.
Most importantly, the Cavaliers have the advantage in coaching. Coach O'Connor has made Jack Leggett and Clemson his whipping boys since he came to Charlottesville in 2004. Oak is 21-4 against Clemson and has won the last eight straight dating back to March 2010. Only once in Oak's tenure has a UVa squad lost to Clemson twice in the same season which happened back in 2005; that was also the last time Clemson won the series against the Cavaliers. Whatever number it is, Coach Oak and Co. have it and Leggett absolutely hates it.
I think I might have said early on that the Cavalier team would falter and drop the series to Clemson but steal a game. (I might have also said they would win it because Coach O'Connor doesn't lose to Leggett)(I DON'T KNOW!). What I think now is that the Cavaliers are going to take the series. They've proven enough to me on the mound and at the plate to be able to handle this Clemson Tiger team. Both teams are young, both can pitch well, but the Cavaliers know how to hit, and know how to beat Clemson.
Hoos take the series two games to one and keep climbing the rankings! All three games are on ESPN3 this weekend, so while you have the basketball on the tv, pull up the baseball on your computer! Go Hoos!