The Clemson youth movement

CLEMSON - Back when Jack Leggett first met with the Clemson media contingent in February, he couldn't wait to introduce everyone to his freshmen class.

Now, three months later, it's no wonder the Tigers' longtime head coach gave such a glowing review when previewing the group.

Rightfielder Steven Duggar has started in all 56 games. The Byrnes product has hit a pair of homers and driven in 26 runs. He's fourth on the team with a .291 batting average, third in stolen bases [15] and first with 65 hits.

Tyler Krieger hasn't missed a start either. Although he struggled at the plate early on, his play at shortstop didn't suffer. But his bat started to heat up with the weather. Kreiger's average is now up to .273 and he's also stolen eight bases and recorded 26 RBI.

Then, of course, there are the pitchers. Those guys have been every bit as advertised -- maybe even a little bit better.

Brody Koerner has a 1-1 record this season
Barely a year removed from Tommy John surgery, lefty starter Matthew Crownover emerged as a solid Saturday starter. Though he's likely to miss the ACC Tournament because of tightness in his forearm, he's 7-2 with a 2.05 ERA.

Three other freshmen have started -- Zack Erwin [5-1, 3.29], Brody Koerner [1-1, 3.99] and Clate Schmidt [3-3, 4.89].

Another freshmen, Kyle Schnell, has been solid out of the bullpen. In 21 relief appearances, Schnell is 2-0 with a 3.25 ERA in 27 2/3 innings of work.

That youth movement has played a big part in Clemson's emergence as a candidate to host an NCAA Regional.

With an overall record of 39-17 [18-12 ACC], the Tigers have nation's 12th best RPI and eighth toughest schedule in the country.

"This team, in particular some of the young guys, has gotten better and better and better. You probably see it more from the stands…I can definitely see it as a team, as the coach. I can see our players getting more mature, more confident," Leggett said. "They're pretty well focused."

They'll need all the confidence and focus they can get this week during ACC Tournament play.

There is very little room to breathe for anyone in Pool A, which is made up of Clemson, UNC, N.C. State and Miami.

"You've got to be on your toes," Leggett said. "Obviously, we've played all three of them, so we know what to expect. They all have very good ball clubs."

Garrett Boulware thinks he's also part of a good ball club. First among Clemson hitters in home runs [7] and RBI [46], he believes the Tigers have done enough to host an NCAA Tournament Regional next weekend.

But it's better to be safe than sorry and win some games in Durham.

"We need to win a game just to kind of keep the way we've been playing going. Obviously, I definitely think it will help. I don't want to go up there and go 0-for," Boulware said. "If we could win one or two games that would be really nice. That would make us feel a lot more comfortable about the whole Regional situation."

Regardless of how Clemson fares in the ACC Tournament, Leggett is of the belief that there will be more baseball be played at Doug Kingsmore Stadium this season.

"We've had 39 wins and we've got 18-12 in conference, the number one rated conference in the country," Leggett said. "I think we've got five hosting from the conference this year. It's happened before in some other conferences.

"All eight of our teams going to the [ACC] tournament are top 22 RPIs in the country. That's pretty strong, so I would say that we're in pretty good position."

Plus, he likes where his team is, at this point in the season.

"Early on the season, I saw us as a pretty good team. Late in the season, I see us as a much better team and a team I wouldn't want to bump into if I was playing us. That's kind of how I look at it," Leggett said. Top Stories