Strong field makes up Clemson Regional

CLEMSON — After recording a 40-19 record against one of the nation's toughest schedules, it's obvious the 15th-ranked Clemson Tigers are not scared to play anyone.

And that's a good thing after finding out they will be hosting a regional this weekend that will house No. 2 seed Alabama of the SEC, No. 3 Oklahoma State of the Big 12, and Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champion Tennessee Tech.

"We will not be intimidated by anybody and they will not either," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said Monday about the pairings. "They have played against good competition all year long and have played against good teams within their conference, and Tennessee Tech is coming off winning their conference championship so they have some confidence.

"I expect everybody will come in here ready to play."

And so will Clemson.

Clemson is making its 34th NCAA Regional appearance, including its 22nd in the last 23 years. The Tigers' 34 regional appearances are sixth-most in NCAA history. One school on that list ahead of Clemson is Oklahoma State, who will be playing in its 37th all-time tournament, fourth-best in NCAA history.

The Cowboys have been to the College World Series 19 times, tied for fifth-most in NCAA history. Clemson has been to the College World Series 11 times, 11th-best nationally.

This year's Tigers have won 15 of their last 20 games and have eight wins over top-25 teams, including six against teams ranked in the top five in the nation. That includes a 4-3 victory in 11 innings over No. 4 national seed North Carolina in last Saturday's ACC Tournament.

"The win over North Carolina was really huge for us," centerfielder Wilson Boyd said. "For the guys that have not been in the regionals, it kind of gave them a taste of what is going to be like in the big games that we are going to be in.

"It showed them what it is going to take to win those games so I think it was good to get that taste and get that momentum."

Clemson will face Tennessee Tech in the second game of the Clemson Regional on Friday at 7 p.m. Alabama will play Oklahoma State at 3 p.m. in the first game. This is the first time Clemson has hosted a regional since 2006, the last time it advanced to the College World Series.

The losers of the two games on Friday will meet in an elimination game on Saturday at 3 p.m., while the two winners will meet later that night at 7. The double-elimination tournament will continue with two games on Sunday at the same times.

If a seventh game is needed to decide the regional champion, it will be played on Monday at 7 p.m.

The winner of the Clemson Regional will face the winner of the Arizona State Regional in a super regional from June 5-8 at a site to be announced by the NCAA Baseball Committee. Arizona State is the No. 5 national seed and will host a super regional if it wins the Tempe Regional.

"I think our team is going to do well (in the tournament)," first baseman Ben Paulsen said. "Even though we took a shot this weekend in the ACC Tournament, I think we are really going to do well in the postseason because everyone is excited and we are at home.

"It was tough playing on the road those 11 days so it is a great feeling to be able to sleep in our own beds and be able to play here when there are big game situations."

Tennessee Tech comes to Clemson with a 30-22-1 record after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament with four straight wins, including each of the last two by one run in extra innings. The Golden Eagles defeated Jacksonville State in the championship game 4-3 in 10 innings. Tennessee Tech was 10-11-1 in the regular season in the OVC and was the No. 4 seed in the tournament.

Tennessee Tech is led on offense by A.J. Kirby-Jones, who has a team- high 20 home runs and a team-best 66 RBIs in starting all 53 games this year. He is also hitting .344 and was named MVP of the OVC Tournament.

Casanova Donaldson is the top hitter with a .351 batting average, while Chad Oberaker is second at .348.

Alabama enters the NCAA tournament with a 37-19 overall record. The Crimson Tide's season includes a 2-1 series win over Georgia when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the nation, a 3-0 series sweep of SEC Tournament finalist Vanderbilt, and a sweep of NCAA Tournament team Arkansas.

"Oklahoma State has some great pitching and Alabama has Kent Matthes that is a great hitter," Paulsen said. "I know a couple of guys that are on the Alabama team that are good players so it is going to be a good tournament and I'm excited to play all of those teams."

Matthes is hitting .365 with 28 home runs and 81 RBIs for Alabama. He was leading the nation in home runs entering the conference tournament weekend, a big reason Alabama was fourth in the nation in home runs. Taylor Dugas is hitting .354 from his starting outfield position and Ross Wilson checks in at .349.

Brandon May is hitting .343 with 12 home runs to serve as a key to the offense. The Alabama pitching staff is led by Austin Hyatt, a 6-foot-3 right-hander from Marietta, Ga., who has an 8-2 record and a 3.14 ERA.

"I don't know too much about (the teams in the regional)," Boyd said. "I just know that (Alabama and Oklahoma State) have good traditions, rich history and winning programs. They are going to be a tough challenge for us."

Oklahoma State comes to Clemson for the first time in history with a 32-22 record. This is the fourth straight year Oklahoma State has been chosen for the NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys are led at the plate by Tryone Hambly with a .338 batting average and nine home runs.

Neil Medchill is the top home run hitter with 14 shots and is hitting .337 overall. Michael Dabbs has 13 home runs and is hitting .335. Oklahoma State is hitting .304 as a team. Tyler Blandford leads the team in wins (7), while Andrew Oliver tops the team with strikeouts with 91 in 80.2 innings pitched.

"I think every bracket is a tough bracket," Boyd said. "At this time of the year every team is either a conference champion or is a team that contends for it so anyone we play at this time of the year is going to be a tough game for us."

CLEMSON REGIONAL SCHEDULE

Friday, May 29 # 3 Oklahoma State vs. #2 Alabama, 3 p.m.

#4 Tennessee Tech at #1 Clemson, 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 30 Games at 3 and 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 31 Games at 3 and 7 p.m.

Monday, June 1 If necessary game at 7 p.m.

Note: All times are EDT; game times subject to change if games are picked up by television.


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