Peaking at the Right Time?

The Clemson baseball team travels to Starkville, Miss. to take on Mississippi State for a chance to go to the 2007 College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

GAME NOTES | MOSKOS AUDIO | LEGGETT, HARBIN, D'ALESSIO PRESS CONFERENCE

In retrospect, Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett thinks his team's struggles through the first couple months of the season may have been a good thing and very well could be responsible for the reason the Tigers stand just two games shy of reaching the College World Series.

"In the last month and a half, we've played much better offensively and are playing with a lot more confidence," Leggett said. "I think the good about (the early struggles) is it didn't allow us to peak too early. It didn't allow us to play our best baseball in the middle of the season, which can sometimes happen, so that might be a positive."

Now that centerfielder Brad Chalk has returned to solidify the top of the lineup and the four guys – Andy D'Alessio, Marquez Smith, Taylor Harbin and Doug Hogan – in the middle are all one fire, No. 9 Clemson (41-21) looks to be playing its best baseball of the season.

And the Tigers will get a chance to prove it when they open Super Regional play at noon, Friday at No. 19 Mississippi State (36-20).

Bulldog officials are expecting no less than 10,000 fans for the best-of-three series.

"I heard it was one of the more unbelievable places to play," D'Alessio said. "It's going to be fun."

Considering most of this year's team for Clemson played in Omaha last season, it's doubtful the big crowd will rattle them. Leggett is more concerned about Mississippi State than the crowd or atmosphere.

"A lot of their same kids are back," he said. "They've got a good, strong offensive lineup. They have five lefties in the lineup and I'm hoping our left-handed pitching can do a good job against them. It's going to be a real good challenge for our pitching staff and for our hitters.

"They've been playing well lately and their pitching is coming on. We know what we have to do. We just have to execute the plan and go to work."

Leggett believes the key to putting together a successful run in the postseason isn't looking toward the big prize of Omaha, but rather trying to look at each series as its own playoff.

"I don't want them to focus in on if we win we go to Omaha," he said. "I want them to think about winning just another tournament."

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