New 30 game season paying dividends

GREENVILLE - Since dropping all three games at North Carolina, Clemson's turned the tables on what had the makings of a rocky 2011.

The Tigers left Chapel Hill with an overall record of 14-12 and found themselves on the outside of all three polls.

Since that sweep, Clemson has gone 19-3 with series wins over Maryland, Boston College, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. And after Tuesday night's 5-1 victory over Furman at Fluor Field, No. 16 Clemson is now up to 33-15 with two weekends left on the regular season schedule.

"It's just a new mindset," said utility player Will Lamb, who's in the midst of a 23-game hitting streak. "We came in with a new 30 game season and we just came out and said we've got to prove we're back for good, prove we're back in the ACC. That's what we're trying to do."

This season's start parallels the rough patch Clemson endured midway through 2010. The Tigers started strong with an 18-9 record before going through a rough patch in April, going 7-9 and suffering through a five-game losing streak. The horrid month bounced them out of the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball polls for the first-time all season.

But the tide quickly turned in May.

A seven-game winning streak to start the month propelled Clemson towards a strong finish, which ended with a sweep of Florida State in the final series of the regular season.

The Tigers went on to play in the College World Series and came within a game for a chance at the national championship.

The key to this year's turnaround, Lamb said, is the everyday approach.

"We've been a lot more loose and joking around in the dugout," he said. "We all know that we can all do our job when we're called upon—pitching staff and hitters. We all know that we can play great defense, too. It's just a matter of staying loose and having fun with it."

Entering this weekend's series at Virginia Tech, Clemson is second in the ACC Atlantic Division standings with a 13-11 league record. In the division, Florida State is first-place at 16-8. N.C. State is third at 11-13.

Sitting sixth in the overall ACC standings, Clemson needs to finish in the top-eight to qualify for the ACC Tournament in Durham, N.C. Virginia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and North Carolina have clinched spots in the tournament.

Head coach Jack Leggett believes confidence has played a large part in Clemson getting back into the mix for a berth in the conference tournament.

Having his team's best hitter back in the lineup and one of the top young arms solidified in the weekend rotation helps, too.

"We've got more guys playing well and more guys healthy," Leggett said. "We didn't have Brad Miller there for a while. He makes a difference on our team. Dominic Leone coming back being healthy for us is a big thing. He's pitching well for us. It takes some pressure out of the innings we use others with.

"We've got some guys in some roles that maybe they weren't quite ready. Now they're in roles where the feel more comfortable." Top Stories