Tigers Eye the Big Prize

CLEMSON – Much like when they won the ACC regular season title last week and the ACC Tournament Championship on Sunday, there was very little emotion by the Clemson baseball team when it was announced Monday afternoon the Tigers were the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Whenever a college basketball team is selected into the NCAA Tournament, there's always lots of cheering and hoopla. But even when one of the announcers on ESPN picked Clemson to win the College World Series, not a word was said by anyone.

"It's because it hasn't been accomplished yet," said Clemson coach Jack Leggett, who leads his team to its 20th straight NCAA Tournament berth. "What it tells you is that this team is focused on the whole deal. We're not going to jump all over each other with the ACC Championship. We might do that if we have a chance to go to the next level. …

"I'm kind of glad that that's how they handled it. It wasn't something that we talked about. It was just something that was spontaneous. It shows me that it's, ‘Okay, we appreciate what we've just done, but now there's something else that we've got to try and take care of.' "

The Tigers (47-14) begin their road to Omaha at 7 p.m., Friday against UNC Asheville (28-33), which beat Liberty in the Big South Tournament to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Elon (44-16) is the regional's second seed, with Mississippi State (35-21) being the third seed. They will meet at 3 p.m., Friday.

It is without much debate the easiest of the 16 regionals. But with Clemson being ranked as the best by the NCAA, it should be the easiest.

Clemson played Elon twice this season and won 5-3 and 7-4 respectively.

There are questions as to whether Mississippi State should even be in the tournament, considering it wasn't even good enough to qualify for the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs started the season 18-0 and has since gone 17-21.

And as for UNC Asheville, it is one of only four teams to make the tournament with a losing record.

Just don't tell Leggett it's an easy bracket.

"(Elon) is a good ball club and they're well coached and they always play us tough here," he said. "They're a much better baseball team than what we saw. They've been playing very well since that time. …

"(Mississippi State) has got a good team with a great coach. Ron Polk has been there for a long time. They'll be prepared and they'll be ready. … It's one of those things where we'll have to be prepared to play them tough if we get a chance to play them. But I'm not really concerned about anybody right now except for UNC Asheville."

There's still no word as to whether right fielder Travis Storrer, who has a severely sprained ankle, will be on the 25-man roster for the regional. Leggett has to determine that by Thursday night.

The other question mark is the pitching rotation, which Leggett and pitching coach Kevin O'Sullivan have yet to determine.

"We're just going to play it by ear," Leggett said. "We'll probably decide who we're going to pitch in another day or so."

Not that it really matters who starts when considering how the team's playing.

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