Beyond the ACCtion: ACC Teams Find Success in Different Ways at the #CWS

June 22, 2010

Steve Phillips, Assistant Director of Communications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, takes you Beyond the ACCtion in Omaha for the 2010 College World Series. Check theACC.com daily for more entries.


Rain, lightning and the ultimate postponement of Sunday’s College World Series opener against top-ranked Arizona State had made life hard for Clemson’s baseball team. And as the Tigers rolled out of bed early Monday for their 10 a.m. make-up date with Sun Devils, it seemed to be happening all over again.

Thunder boomed, lightning flashed and more rain poured down as Clemson bussed over to Creighton University for their indoor batting drills. Nearly four days after touching down in Omaha, they had yet to play a game in the 2010 CWS. They almost wondered if they would.

“It was a little stressful (Sunday),” pitcher Casey Harman said. “You get excited to play, and then you get right back down when it starts lightning again. And today we all thought there was a real good chance we weren’t going to play because it was pouring when we went to take batting practice at Creighton.”

But the rain stopped around 9 a.m. Then, almost as if it had taken a cue from the baseball gods, the sun burst through the clouds and engulfed Rosenblatt Stadium just as the teams completed pregame warm-ups and the P.A. system blared the opening chords to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”

It was going to be a great day for baseball after all, and a particularly great one for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s two CWS representatives.

Buoyed by Harman’s six strong innings on the mound, followed by three innings of one-hit relief from Alex Fredreick, the Tigers doubled up the Sun Devils by a 6-3 score and remained in the winners’ bracket to face Oklahoma on Tuesday evening.

Florida State followed with an 8-5 win over third-seeded Florida, bouncing back from Saturday’s loss to TCU and eliminating the rival Gators from the tournament. Mike McGee was the Seminoles’ man of the hour, driving in four runs and coming on to earn the save in the ninth as FSU survived a wacky finish.

For Clemson, Monday’s end result proved worth the wait.

“Winning the first ball game (you play in the CWS) – it’s always important, no question about it,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “It gives you a boost of confidence.”

Arizona State coach Tim Esmay’s team also had to endure some highs, lows and uncertainty before learning it would not play on Sunday. But in his eyes, that made all things equal on Monday morning.

“Obviously, you want to play (Sunday), and you prepare yourself all day mentally to go play,” Esmay said. “But when they said that there was no game … I think that’s a lot better than starting a game and then having to suspend it and then having to come back (and resume play on Monday).

“Both teams were in the same boat. They prepared all day, we prepared all day. I don’t think that was a factor.”

Had Clemson played and won on Sunday, it would have had a full day off before playing on Tuesday night. Instead, the Tigers must come right back and play Oklahoma, a team that did manage to get in its Sunday game (a 3-2 win over South Carolina) and thus had Monday to practice, prepare and rest.

Leggett, however, sees the short turnaround as an advantage.

“I think it’s good to get back on the horse and play tomorrow,” Leggett said Monday after the win. “Our guys are in pretty good shape this time of year. And we were anxious to get on the field last night, anxious to get on the field this morning.”

14 HITS, 14 SINGLES

Not one of Clemson’s 14 hits vs. Arizona State went for extra bases, but Leggett had no complaints. The Tigers hit with two outs and had timely hits with men on base, particularly during a three-run fifth inning.

“You know, I was looking up at the scoreboard, and I saw we had 14 hits,” Leggett said. “And I was kind of piecing the game together. I don’t care how (the hits) come. I think some of our singles turned into doubles because we ran the bases pretty well and stole some bases. We did some really good things as far as pushing runners around.

“So I don’t know how much that was a factor. I’m just glad we had some singles when we had to have them.”

NO EARLY EXIT FOR THE SEMINOLES

Florida State snapped a four-game CWS losing streak that dated to 2000 with Monday’s win over the Gators. Junior outfielder Tyler Holt, whose leadoff home run gave the Seminoles an early shot of momentum, said he and FSU’s other upperclassmen were inspired by memories of 2008, when FSU suffered two quick losses and became the first team to board a plane home.

“We didn't want to say our tenure Rosenblatt was 0 4,” Holt said. “(We said), ‘Hey, we're going to stick around this time. We know what it's about.’ ‘’

Florida State’s second loss (and elimination) during the 2008 CWS came at the hands of Miami, so there was some measure of satisfaction in being on the winning end against an in-state rival on Monday.

“A win is a win, whether it was Florida or if we were playing UCLA,” Holt said. “One of us is going home. But we got pushed out my freshman year by a rival, and it feels really good to be on the other side this time.”

SEMINOLE LEADERS

Florida threw a scare into the Seminoles on Monday after entering the ninth inning trailing 8-2. The Gators pushed three runs across the plate, loaded the bases, and had the go-ahead run at the plate before FSU shortstop Stephen Cardullo snared Mike Zunino’s line drive and turned it into a double play.

But whatever problems the Seminoles encountered at the end were not due to cockiness or over-confidence, FSU coach Mike Martin said. Martin said his players never felt the game was over until the final out was recorded – mainly because juniors Holt and McGee would not allow them to.

“It was clearly evident in the dugout that they knew the game wasn't over, because they kept saying to the rest of the guys: ‘This thing's not over. Stay tough,’” Martin said. That’s a clear indication that they have a good grasp of the game of baseball.”

With Holt being drafted in the 10th round of the recent Major League Draft by the Cleveland Indians and McGee going in the 41st round to the Arizona Diamondbacks, there is a chance the 2010 College World Series will represent their final collegiate games. Martin hopes not, however.

“These two guys have been tremendous contributors to the success of our team this year,” Martin said. “And I'm just hoping both of them come back.”

NOTING THE TIGERS

  • A bit of déjà vu courtesy of Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret: The Tigers defeated Arizona State on the Monday after Father’s Day. It is the second straight year a momentous accomplishment took place for the Clemson athletic program the day after Father’s Day. Last year, former Clemson All-American Lucas Glover won the US Open golf tournament on the Monday after Father’s Day, the first former Tiger golfer to win the US Open. That round had been moved to Monday because of rain, same as this year’s Clemson vs. Arizona State CWS game. Also, among the players Glover overtook down the stretch last year was a former Arizona State golfer, Phil Mickelson.
  • Clemson’s victory over Arizona State was its first win over a Pac-10 school in the NCAA Tournament since 1958, when the Tigers defeated Arizona in their first College World Series game. It was Clemson’s 11th all-time win over the number-one ranked team in the nation in baseball, and the first since a 3-2 win at South Carolina on April 5, 2006.
  • Jack Leggett became the all-time Clemson leader in wins over number-one ranked teams by any coach at the school in any sport. Monday’s win was his sixth, moving him ahead of former baseball coach Bill Wilhelm, who had five.

NOTING THE SEMINOLES

  • Florida State has won nine of its last 11 games since a four-game losing streak in mid-May.
  • Tyler Holt has now started 198 consecutive games at Florida State, the longest active streak in the nation. The Gainesville, Fla., native is a career .422 (19-for-45) hitter in 12 games against Florida with 13 runs, seven walks, three RBI and six stolen bases in seven attempts. Holt went 3-for-4 with a homer and three runs scored against the Gators on Monday and has recorded four multi-hit games in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
  • Mike McGee’s three-run homer in the third inning Monday was his team-leading 16th of the season. It marked his second of the season against the Gators, and both home runs came off Florida starter Hudson Randall. Monday’s home run was McGee’s fifth in 21 career postseason games and second of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.