Ranked 16th in the nation, Clemson (38-21) enters the NCAA Tournament coming off one win in three games in the ACC Tournament at Greensboro, N.C. Clemson was 18-12 during the ACC regular season, finishing atop the Atlantic Division standings. Clemson is making its 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 24 years and 35th overall, sixth-most in the nation.
A solid team at the plate, Clemson is led by Brad Miller, who is hitting a team-best .373 with seven homers, 17 doubles, four triples, 37 RBIs, a .483 on-base percentage, and nine steals. He has also hit safely in 10 straight games and 20 of his last 21 contests.
First-Team All-ACC outfielder as well as starting quarterback for the football team, Kyle Parker is batting .364 with 19 homers, 14 doubles, a .709 slugging percentage, 57 RBIs, and a .496 on-base percentage.
Veteran John Hinson has added 12 home runs, 62 RBIs, and a team-high 22 stolen bases while Jeff Schaus has added 15 homers and a team-high 75 runs batted in.
On the mound the pitching staff has a 4.81 ERA and opponents are hitting .279 against Clemson pitching. Junior lefthander Casey Harman (6-2, 4.14 ERA) is Clemson's top starting pitcher. In 15 starts he has allowed 86 hits in 91 1/3 innings pitched. However he won't get the call in the opener as that will go to Scott Weismann (6-2, 5.47).
"We're just going to go one game at a time," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "We're going to start Scott Weismann tomorrow, and he's done a nice job for us. He had a little bit of a rough outing last time out, but he pitched very well against Florida State, and he pitched well against South Carolina during the course of the year. He pitched very well for us in the regional last year against Oklahoma State when we had to have him.
"He's been known to step up for us. He's a right-hander, which I think is hopefully a good matchup against Southern Miss. He's got some of that tournament experience which I'm excited about to put him out there. He's excited about it. I'm looking forward to throwing him out there. Whatever happens in the first game, in these tournaments, you have to try to win each game one at a time and just see where you go from there."
In the bullpen junior right-hander Alex Frederick is 6-2 with two saves and a 4.01 ERA in 51.2 innings pitched in a team-high 27 appearances (one start). Freshman righthander Kevin Brady also has 41 strikeouts against only seven walks in 33.0 innings pitched over 19 outings (two starts), while senior righthander Tomas Cruz has a team-high three saves.
Southern Miss shortstop BA Vollmuth has been on a tear for the Golden Eagles in recent weeks.
For No. 3 seed Southern Miss the story is a trio of pitchers who have put the Golden Eagles back into the NCAA Tournament for the eighth consecutive year. Having one of the best seasons in the country, senior starter Scott Copeland enters the regional 11-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 90 2/3 innings this season.
Featuring a heavy sink on a fastball that will get into the low 90s, Copeland pitched 12 innings of scoreless baseball in the CUSA Tournament. Included in that was 4 1/3 innings of relief in the championship game on Saturday night. He'll get the ball for Southern Miss against Clemson.
"He's obviously 11-0," Leggett said. "He sinks the ball down. We've watched him on tape to get a feel for what he tries to do. He has a good breaking ball, quick to the plate. He's got some junior college experience, and he's a senior, so he's done some good things for them. I think he's pitching better as the latter part of the season has come along, and I know they've got some good closing options.
"The team has been to the tournament eight years in a row now, which gives them some experience. They went to the World Series last year, and they've got some confidence rolling off of that. I expect everything we can handle in tomorrow's game."
While his record isn't as impressive at 6-5, junior right-hander Todd McInnis has a 3.15 ERA and the Tim Hudson look-alike on the mound has struck out 86 and walked just 33 in 94 1/3 innings. Out of the bullpen junior righty Collin Cargill is 3-2 with nine saves and a minuscule ERA of just in 38 2/3 innings pitched this season.
At the plate the Golden Eagles are no slouch led by powerful shortstop BA Vollmuth. A 6-4, 200-pounder with great range on defense, his bat is what has the scouts flocking to Hattiesburg. This season he is hitting .383 with 15 home runs, 17 doubles, and 63 RBI. He comes in on a roll as well with 10 home runs in the last 11 games.
Big Joey Archer (6-1, 220) is a steady force at third base for Southern Miss. One of the stars of a team that went to the College World Series last year, Archer is hitting .297 with six homers this season. Second baseman Taylor Walker is the table setter for USM, hitting .365 with seven homers and 53 RBI in 2010.
Southern Mississippi is led by first-year head coach Scott Berry. The Golden Eagles got off to an 18-17 start, but they have won 17 of the last 22 games since then. Southern Mississippi is 30-0 when leading entering the eighth inning and 31-0 when leading entering the ninth inning. In addition they are 27-1 when out-hitting the opponent.
Clemson and Southern Miss will square off at 2 p.m. Friday at Plainsman Park in the first game of the Auburn Regional with Auburn-Jacksonville State to follow a 6 p.m.