Clemson heads back to Columbia... again

Clemson was extended a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 19th time in Jack Leggett's 20 years as head coach at Clemson on Monday. For the second consecutive year, Clemson will travel to the Columbia Regional, hosted by South Carolina as the No. 2 seed.

Clemson will face No. 3-seeded Liberty in the first round in Columbia on Friday at 1:00 PM. South Carolina will be the No. 1 seed and will face No. 4-seeded Saint Louis in the first round on Friday at 7:00 PM.

This will be Clemson's 38th trip to the NCAA Tournament, the fifth-highest total in the history of college baseball. The Tigers have been invited all but one season since 1987. Clemson's overall record in NCAA Tournament play is 112-81, including a 67-41 mark under Leggett.

Clemson enters the tournament with a 39-20 record this year, including an 18-12 regular-season mark in ACC play. The Tigers are 26-9 at home, 12-8 on the road, and 1-3 in neutral-site games, as they are coming off an 0-3 mark in the ACC Tournament. Clemson has lost five games in a row entering the NCAA Tournament, with all five losses coming to teams in the top 20 of the final regular-season RPI.

Clemson's schedule is rated #6 in the nation by the RPI on WarrenNolan.com. Thirty of Clemson's 59 games have been against teams in the RPI top 50, including 17 games against teams that are hosting an NCAA Regional.

The Tigers own victories over NCAA hosts North Carolina (#1 national seed), Virginia (#6 national seed), Florida State (#7 national seed), N.C State., and South Carolina. Clemson has six wins over teams ranked in the top 10 by at least one poll entering the game as well.

Clemson is a young team with three freshman starters among the nine position players and five more freshmen have played a prominent role on the mound. Clemson's freshman pitchers have combined for a 16-8 record this year, the most wins by freshmen since 1997, when that group of rookies combined for 27 victories in Leggett's fourth season. Offensively, Clemson has had five walkoff hits this year, and four times the game-winning hit has been by a freshman.

The top pitcher in terms of victories and the #1 starter for most of the season has been sophomore righthander Daniel Gossett. The native of Lyman, SC has a 9-4 record in 15 starts and 2.53 ERA. The Second-Team All-ACC hurler has a team-high 89 strikeouts, more than twice as many as any other Tiger, and opponents are hitting just .212 against him.

Matthew Crownover is second on the team in victories with seven (7-2 record) and has a team-best 2.05 ERA. The lefthander has walked just 16 batters in 66.0 innings pitched. The freshman from Ringgold, GA did not pitcher in the ACC Tournament, but is expected to be healthy for the NCAA Tournament. Scott Firth (6-5) and Zack Erwin (5-1) have also seen considerable action on the hill. Matt Campbell leads the team in saves with seven.

Clemson has two hitters over the .300 mark this season. Shane Kennedy, the starting third-baseman, has a team-best .317 batting average with four home runs and 33 RBIs. The Second-Team All-ACC selection also has a team-high .413 on-base percentage and has stolen a team-high 22 bases in 27 attempts.

Garrett Boulware is second on the team in batting with a .310 mark, but paces the team in home runs (8) and RBIs (44). He was named to the All-ACC Tournament team and is a semifinalist for the Gregg Olson Award, which is given to college baseball's "Breakout Player-of-the-Year."

Steve Wilkerson is the starting second-baseman and earned Second-Team All-ACC for the second year in a row. He has a .294 batting average with a team-high 16 doubles. Steven Duggar, a freshman from Moore, SC, has started every game this year and has a .291 batting average.

Clemson's opponent on Friday will be Liberty, a team with a 34-27 record after winning the Big South Tournament Championship last weekend. The Flames enter the contest on a five-game winning streak and have won seven of their last eight contests. They are 25-9 at home and 9-18 on the road this year.

The two teams have many common opponents, including South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Duke. Liberty opened the season with a three-game series at South Carolina. This will be the first meeting between Clemson and Liberty since 2000, when Liberty defeated a College World Series Clemson team 6-4 in Virginia.

Liberty is led at the plate by infielder Bryan Aanderud, who has started all 61 games this year, one of two players who have done that for Head Coach Jim Toman's team. Aanderud has a .321 batting average with one homer and 37 RBIs. Trey Wimmer is the other .300 hitter for Liberty, as he has a .303 batting average and 36 RBIs. Danny Grauer, a junior catcher from Chesapeake, VA, is the top power hitter for Liberty with seven home runs and 41 RBIs. Ryan Cordell has added six home runs and 39 RBIs as well.

Liberty has a pair of pitchers with seven wins . Trey Lambert has posted a 7-3 mark in 81.1 innings pitched and has a 3.76 ERA, while Brooks Roy is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA. Liberty has an excellent closer in Ashton Perritt, who has nine saves in his 20 appearances that have covered 33.1 innings pitched.

Saint Louis is in the top 20 in the nation in batting average with a .307 mark, thanks to 650 hits, the seventh-highest total in the nation. Saint Louis boasts six starters with a batting average of at least .300, production that has contributed to a 41-19 record overall, including 17-7 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Saint Louis qualified for the NCAA Tournament by winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament title.

Mike Vigliarolo is the top hitter with a .347 batting average and paces the team in hits (86). He has contributed 19 doubles and eight home runs as the starting first-baseman. The sophomore from Smithtown, NY has a .536 slugging percentage, second-best on the team.

The best on team in terms of slugging is outfielder Alex Kelly. The native of Fort Collins, CO leads the team in home runs with 11 and RBIs with 60, leading to a .546 slugging percentage. He also has an outstanding .340 batting average. Nelson Grant is close behind in batting average at .336.

Clay Smith has the top statistics from a pitching standpoint with an 8-2 overall record. However, he was 5-0 in conference play with a 1.88 ERA. Opponents hit just .181 against him in league play as well. Nick Bates has also been outstanding on the mound with an 8-3 record. Marco Mejia leads the team in saves with six in his 26 appearances.

Host school South Carolina has a 39-18 record. The Gamecocks have been to the College World Series Championship series each of the last three years, winning the title in 2010 and 2011. The Gamecocks are 28-6 at home and were 17-12 in regular-season SEC play, but 0-2 in the SEC Tournament.

LB Dantzler is the top hitter in terms of batting average (.332), home runs (15), and RBIs (48). His .445 on-base percentage is by far the best on the team as well.

Joey Pankake is second on the team in batting with a .315 average. He has hit 10 home runs, contributing to the Gamecocks' top-20 ranking nationally in that category.

Three South Carolina pitchers have seven wins apiece. Nolan Belcher has a 7-5 mark with a 2.30 ERA and a team-high 88 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .239 against Belcher as well.

Adam Westmoreland has a 7-3 record with a 2.05 ERA in 25 appearances out of the bullpen. He has 57 strikeouts against just 11 walks and has allowed opponents to hit just .216 for the year.

Jack Wynkoop is 7-3 with a 2.81 ERA. He has made nine starts and has allowed just 10 walks in 57.2 innings pitched. He has not given up a home run all year.

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