Tigers Eye Fast Start

CLEMSON - Looking back to last season, it would be easy to blame a slow start for the Clemson baseball team's demise at the Waco Super Regional against Baylor.

Why?

Because a 15-13 record out of the gate was one of several reasons why the Tigers ended up not hosting a Super Regional themselves. And not having that home-field advantage proved costly against a strong team like Baylor.

The Tigers defeated the Bears in game one, 4-2 before losing games two and three by a combined score of 13-2.

This year of course, the Tigers are hoping to change all of that.

Also see:
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  • Leggett Previews 2006
  • Demmink Previews 2006
  • Series Notes
  • Photo Gallery
  • Getting off to a fast start Friday in the first game of a three-game set against James Madison, and then in the following series against Mercer is critical in setting the tone for the rest of the year. A strong start could also be a crucial component in the Tigers' postseason resume once May and June come around.

    "We want to host this year," said senior right-hander Josh Cribb. "We want to host a Regional and a Super Regional. We know that's important and it's easy to look back to what happened out there at Baylor last year for proof."

    Standing in the way of Clemson's anticipated strong start is James Madison.

    The Dukes finished the 2005 season with a 20-35 record, including an 8-16 mark in conference play (Colonial Athletic Conference). And while their record may not be impressive, the team returns virtually every main contributor from last year's squad.

    In all, the Dukes lost just five lettermen, and eight of the nine position starters are back this season.

    "We are playing a good James Madison team that will come in here with a lot of motivation," coach Jack Leggett said. "Our goal this weekend is to come out and play well. Try to get our game going, our rhythm going and try not to put too much pressure on ourselves. They've got a lot of experience. You just never know. I've been doing this for 29 years now and you never know what's going to happen that first day out, that first weekend out."

    Leggett's message has already delivered to his players, and in addition, it has been enhanced by the early struggles of several highly ranked teams this year.

    Previous No. 1 ranked Texas was swept in its first series against San Diego, and unranked Stanford swept Cal-State Fullerton, who was also ranked in the top five.

    "The last five or six years, what somebody might consider a mid-major, those are no longer games we can win without playing our best," said senior third baseman Herman Demmink. "The rest of the country has shown so far that it doesn't matter who you play, on given day you can get beat if you aren't ready to play.

    "Not only Texas, Winthrop took two of three from Miami. It's very apparent that anybody can win."

    At the same time, the Tigers are also having to deal with the pressure of being the nation's No. 1 ranked team.

    "The biggest thing right now is for us to realize that we do want to come out and we do want to play well, but there's no reason for us to panic if something out of the ordinary happens," Demmink said. "It's not likely we are going to go 56-0. At some point we are going to lose a game here and there, but we just have to put that behind us and make sure we are ready to play everyday."

    It all starts Friday at 4 PM at Doug Kingsmore Stadium when the top-ranked Tigers take on James Madison.

    Game two is Saturday at 2 PM and game three is set for Sunday at 1 PM.

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