Hinson setting the table

CLEMSON - John Hinson never saw his name atop the lineup in the leadoff spot during his first two seasons at Clemson.

However, talk of batting first in 2011 was part of his fall exit meeting with head coach Jack Leggett.

"We talked about that it might be a possibility," Hinson said. "One day, I just come down, and the lineup's posted and my name is up there.

"There wasn't any discussion about it during the season. It just kind of happened. It's been a plus. I'm glad it happened."

To start the season, Hinson's name was usually fifth or sixth on the lineup card. Suddenly, before the Mar. 23 game against N.C. State, he found it on top.

Leggett said, "He's done a nice job there."

In 33 of the 39 games with Hinson in the leadoff spot, he has at least one hit. The redshirt junior third baseman/second baseman is batting .320 with seven home runs, 35 RBI and 21 stolen bases.

Shortstop Brad Miller called Hinson a "table setter."
"Hitting is contagious. When he gets up there and he's ready to hit, it kind of filters to the rest of the lineup," Miller said. "He kind of settled into the role. Everybody kind of found their spot in the lineup."

Since Hinson's move to No. 1, Clemson is 29-10. The only consecutive losses were the three-straight defeats at North Carolina.

"It starts with Hinson at the top," Miller said. "Just getting things going."

Before he arrived to Clemson, Hinson always led off, so he was comfortable when Leggett pulled the trigger without warning.

On Thursday, a day before Clemson opens NCAA Tournament play against Sacred Heart, Hinson shrugged off the idea that Clemson's surge over the final part of the season is correlated to his move to the top of the lineup.

"Having such a solid middle of the lineup is what wins you ball games…just having the confidence that everybody behind you can hit you in," Hinson said.

Wherever his name has been in the Clemson lineup, Hinson's been productive. He hit .351 with 17 home runs and 75 RBI last season, prompting the Philadelphia Phillies to select him in the 13th round with the No. 411 overall pick.

Instead of pursuing professional career, Hinson elected to return to Clemson. And he hopes to continue serving as the table setter during another run to the College World Series.

"It's all about the postseason. This is why everybody comes back to school to play another year," Hinson said. "This is the beginning of what makes the season great."

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