Tigers Arrive in Waco

WACO, Texas – The teams are still a day away from taking to the field in the Game 1 of the NCAA Super Regional, but already the game plan for Clemson and Baylor is in full motion.

The Bears (42-21) are going to rely on what has gotten them to this point and that's their pitching. Baylor has three stud starting pitchers, but what separates the two pitching staffs is that the Bears have two outstanding relief pitchers.

And as a result the dominate Baylor pitching staff, the Tigers' hitters will enter Saturday's noon game with a specific thought in mind on how to attack starting left-handed pitcher Trey Taylor (7-5, 3.43 ERA).

"What we talked about is he's a four-pitch mix guy," said Clemson hitting coach Tom Riginos. "We're going to get a couple pitches during an at-bat that are going to be good pitches to hit, so we can't miss them. We cannot chase a slider in the dirt. The way that he gets a lot of his strikeouts is that slider in the dirt to right-handers. We cannot chase it. We've got to hit our pitch and when we get it, we can't miss it.

"It's almost like the same scenario like we used against Cesar Carrillo. We knew we were going to get a couple of pitches to hit per at-bat. He's going to nibble and he's going to miss and then he's going to give us a pitch to hit. And when we get it, we have to hit it."

That's a whole lot easier said than done. Taylor, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Chicago Cubs, has 82 strikeouts in 97 innings pitched. Especially after you couple that with the fact that hitters for Clemson (42-21) have struggled against lefties all season long.

"I would call (my pitching style) very unpredictable," Taylor, a senior, said. "I'm not a guy like (teammate) Mark (McCormick), who's known for his unbelievable arm. He throws very hard and I'm not a guy like that. If I don't throw everything I have for strikes and use it to keep guys off balance, I'm going to get hit. That's the bottom line. Tomorrow, for me to be effective, I'm going to have to throw all my pitches for strikes. And if I do that, I like my chances. …

"All I'll say is, do I respect them? You better believe it. But do I feel like I can beat them? (Yes.) From that standpoint, that's the confidence I have to go in there with. I hope this doesn't sound cocky or anything, but I believe I'm going to go out and win tomorrow. I'm sure if you ask (Stephen Faris), he'd say the same thing."

In Clemson coach Jack Leggett's mind, the entire series is going to hinge on which team does the better job of getting two-out hits with runners in scoring position. One thing that does play into the Tigers' favor is that Baylor is generally a weak hitting team, especially by collegiate standards.

The Bears finished dead last in the Big 12 with a .269 batting average. They only have two hitters batting over .300, while Clemson has five hitting better than .340. Also, Baylor has hit just 42 home runs this year as compared to the Tigers' 75.

"We're going to have to solve their pitchers," Leggett said. "We're going to have to do a good job offensively, I think more than anything else. Our starting pitching has got to step up and keep things where they need to be. But, we're going to have to try to manufacture some runs and get some big hits with men on base. I think that's the big important thing that's got to happen for either team, you've got to get big hits with men on base."

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