Beyond the ACCtion: The Weathermen and Hot Hands at the #CWS
June 23, 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.
My hotel desk clerk said I looked as if I had been thrown into a pool with my clothes on. I begged to differ. Had I been tossed into a pool, I would have been less waterlogged than I was following Tuesday night’s mad dash through the parking lot at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Weather problems continue to play havoc with the 2010 College World Series. But at least Clemson held a 6-1 lead after five innings before lightning and the aforementioned downpour forced suspension of Tuesday night’s game vs. Oklahoma. Plans call for a resumption of play today at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on ESPNU.
The Tigers keep dodging lightning bolts and rain drops; Sunday night’s scheduled opener against Arizona State was washed out all together and had to be played Monday morning. But that hasn’t prevented them from performing at a high level and building momentum. If they can complete what they started on Tuesday night, will they stand 2-0 in this year’s CWS and need just one more win to capture Bracket Two and earn a spot in next week’s best-of-three Championship Series.
Fifty minutes following completion of the Clemson-Oklahoma contest, Florida State and TCU will meet in a Bracket One elimination game. Needless to say, that makes Wednesday a pivotal day for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s two CWS representatives.
SOME LIKE IT HOT
It was no accident that, with the exception of the starting pitcher, Clemson’s lineup for Tuesday night’s game against Oklahoma was exactly the same as the one that took the field for Monday’s 6-3 win over top-seeded Arizona State.
The Tigers hold their enviable CWS position because head coach Jack Leggett has pushed the right buttons throughout postseason. Much of that, according to the veteran coach, has simply been a matter of going by feel and seeking out the “hot hand” in a given situation.
”The hot team's going to end up winning the tournament, whoever it might be,” Leggett said following Monday’s Arizona State game. “The hot team wins the Super Regional and the Regional. The hot team at the end of the year is the team that you have to watch out for. But also, your hot players are the ones you've got to play. You've got to figure out how to get them in a lineup.”
That explained the presence – and the contribution – of freshman catcher Spencer Kieboom on Tuesday night.
Kieboom spent most of the season as Clemson’s third-string catcher, and entered the College World Series with 45 at-bats in 26 games. But the bulk of his playing has come in recent weeks, starting with a 3-for-4 performance against Georgia Tech in the Tigers’ third game of the ACC Championship on May 29.
And, vs. the Sooners on Tuesday night, it was Kieboom – the “hot guy” – whose two-run single capped a four-run fourth inning that left the Tigers with a 4-1 lead that would balloon to 6-1 before the lightning and heavy rain halted play.
“Spencer Kieboom is a great example,” Leggett said. “(We) gave him an opportunity about eight, nine, 10 games ago, and he's riding it out. And (outfielder) Chris Epps has gotten hot and moving forward for us, so we’re trying to ride that thing out for a while. And (pitcher) Will Lamb was hot there for a while and (third baseman) John Hinson got hot when he got his opportunity earlier in the year.
“So now we're just trying to play and trying to figure out who the hot guys are.”
So far this week, Leggett and his staff have calculated flawlessly. Perhaps someone should put them in charge of the weather.
ACCOLADES FOR JOHNSON
Florida State sophomore third baseman Sherman Johnson entered the program as a walk-on. He entered the College World Series batting .332 for the season, and his performances in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional rounds arguably were the biggest reason the Seminoles earned another trip to Omaha.
Johnson claimed MVP honors in the Norwich, Conn., Regional on June 6 and delivered a key, bases-clearing double in the Seminoles’ Super Regional-clinching win over Vanderbilt on June 13.
Johnson has been overshadowed by his teammates so far in the College World Series. With Tyler Holt and Stephen Cardullo hitting monster home runs in Monday’s win over Florida, and Mike McGee coming up big both at the plate and on the mound, the spotlight wasn’t big enough for everyone.
But Johnson remains steady as ever. With hits in both of Florida State’s CWS games thus far, he has hit safely in all eight of the Seminoles’ NCAA postseason games.
Not bad for a one-time non-scholarship guy.
“It’s the epitome of what college baseball is all about,” FSU coach Mike Martin said.
In addition to adjusting quickly to a new position (Johnson began the season as a second baseman), the Tampa, Fla., native has muscled up and put on close to 30 pounds in less than two years.
“That’s what college athletics can do for a young man if he truly gets after it – and he got after it,” said Martin, who will be glad to have Johnson on his side when the Seminoles face TCU on Wednesday evening.