Tigers can't overlook Coastal

CLEMSON - While fans across the Palmetto state will automatically assume Clemson and South Carolina will meet this coming weekend, there is one important foe in the way first.

This could finally be the weekend where Clemson exacts revenge on South Carolina and shifts the rivalry's momentum back towards the Upstate.

Clemson enters NCAA Tournament play as the No. 2 seed in the Columbia Regional while nationally seeded South Carolina begins the push a third-straight College World Series title.

Not only would a regional win knock the rival Gamecocks out of tournament play, but it could help the Tigers exorcise their recent postseason demons. However, there is business to take care of Friday at 12 p.m. when Clemson meets No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina.

A veteran of two NCAA Tournaments, pitcher Kevin Brady knows that no team is to be taken lightly in postseason play.

"You've got to worry about that first game, to get to the next one," he said. "You can't look ahead until you take care of that first game."

This year's first game is one that no one from Clemson is taking lightly. Earlier this month, Coastal Carolina (41-17) won its sixth consecutive Big South tournament.

The Chanticleers also beat the Tigers 10-7 in their April 24 meeting at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

In addition, Coastal Carolina enters the Columbia Regional with the second-best team ERA in the country at 2.53.

"Coastal, they're not a team to overlook. If we do, we're going to get it handed to us," said Phil Pohl, who's batting .288 with eight homers and 50 RBI.

"We're going to be focused on Coastal."

As one might imagine, Brady and Pohl mirrored the perspective taken by Jack Leggett.

"You've got to play one game at a time. You can't look past anybody or you're going to find yourself in trouble real quick," Leggett said.

No matter the opponent, Richie Shaffer knows the Tigers will be playing in hostile territory at this weekend.

"Even if we're not playing South Carolina, there will be a lot of people that don't like the color orange," he said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. We've got to take a depth breath, keep our composure and make sure we play baseball."

But the chance to knock off the two-time defending national champions at Carolina Stadium does present a pretty sweet opportunity for the Tigers.

"I'd be lying to say we wouldn't want to play them in the finals… that's a pretty historic rivalry and it'd be intense games," Shaffer said. "We're not trying to look forward to anything, as tough as it is. We're just trying to take it one game at a time."

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