Miami Takes Series

CLEMSON – It's only the first day of April, but these are tough times with the Clemson baseball team. The hitting and pitching have been less than expected and anxieties are starting to mount.

The Tigers just completed their third ACC series of the season and when Miami took the 7-6 victory Sunday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium to take the three-game series 2-1, it marked the second conference set they've lost.

It happened only twice in 10 series last year.

"It's never easy losing a series against a team that you've had relative success against in the past," junior pitcher Daniel Moskos said. "Losing close games is always tough. There's always that high hope that we're going to get a key hit. We don't take losing too well together."

Moreover, Clemson (18-9, 5-4 ACC) is just 4-5 over its last nine, which includes two home losses to the Hurricanes (17-13, 5-7). The Tigers didn't lose a single league game at home last season.

In fact it's the worst start to the conference season for a Clemson team since 2003, when it got off to a 4-5 start.

"It's a long season," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "We've just got to work our way through."

And while the pitching has struggled some from top to bottom, it hasn't been the main reason for Clemson's gradual slide.

Simply put, the Tigers aren't getting the key, two-out hits with runners in scoring position and they have too many batters batting in the low .200s or even worse.

The last three hitters in Sunday's lineup – right fielder Wilson Boyd, second baseman J.D. Burgess and left fielder Addison Johnson – entered the game batting .214, .222 and .218 respectively.

Even more problematic is that some of the key players aren't carrying their load, either. Shortstop Taylor Harbin and first baseman Andy D'Alessio are each batting in the .270s.

The hitting woes are something Leggett didn't foresee.

"Hitting wise, it wasn't," he said. "I don't know what happened there. We've got to get better with every aspect. …

"We just have to go back and try hard to be more assertive with some runners on base. It's like free throw shooting, the more you talk about it, sometimes the worse it gets."

Many of the problems can be attributed to the loss of shortstop Stan Widmann for the season. While he didn't put up monster numbers, he was still a steady enough bat that fit perfectly into the lineup.

There's also no accounting for the loss of his leadership as a three-year starter.

Harbin has had to play out of position and leave his home at second base, where he is one of the best in the nation, because of the injury. And as a result, a freshman that may not be quite ready for everyday play has had to.

"That's obvious," Leggett said. "We miss that chemistry and leadership. We're not going to play on that because there's nothing we can do about that. Whatever is ahead of us, we just have to deal with it."

Frustrations are starting to definitely build with the players.

Of three starters requested for interviews by the media following Sunday's game, only Moskos did so. And that was only after Leggett instructed him to.

Like many of the pitchers, Moskos hasn't been on top of his game for the entire season.

Against the Hurricanes, he allowed three hits and two walks, as well as a run to score. He also allowed two inherited runners to come across in the seventh, which gave Matt Zoltak (1-2) the loss.

The star reliever had been pitching well of late, but that followed a stretch where he struggled to have much control or success.

"I really don't know (what his problem is)," Leggett said. "He really needs to be more aggressive with all his pitches."

But the lefty says while times are tough, they're certainly not lost.

"There's definitely enough leadership on the team," he said. "The older players have to express to the younger players that we've lost before and you don't have to worry just because we're losing. …

"It's starting to come around, but we may not see it on the scoreboard. It's definitely not as bad as our record shows."

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