Hinson leading the way as a reliever

CLEMSON — Earlier this week, Clemson pitcher Ryan Hinson and a couple of other players were sitting on the practice field behind Doug Kingsmore Stadium when some of the young players asked him why the temporary fences were taken down in the outfield.

Hinson, who along with fellow pitcher Matt Vaughn are the only two holdovers from the 2006 College World Series team, simply told the younger players that this is where they do batting practice for the regional.

"They asked me about the cars," Hinson said smiling. "So I told them that you just have to keep your head up."

This week has been an exciting time for the Clemson senior and he expects to enjoy all of this weekend's Clemson Regional at Doug Kingsmore which begins Friday at 3 p.m. when second seed Alabama takes on No. 3 Oklahoma State at 3 p.m.

The 15th-ranked Tigers (40-19), the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Regional, will battle fourth seed Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m.

"You have to enjoy this," Hinson said. "If we just go out there and take care of our business and just play the game like we know how to play the game, then we will be alright."

Hinson, like all the upperclassmen, appreciates the opportunity at hand for his team. He can remember the feeling of climbing the right centerfield wall in 2006 to celebrate with all the fans in the "Cheap-seats" section after clinching a spot in the College World Series. He remembers the trip to Omaha and the first time he saw historic Rosenblatt Stadium.

He remembers the trip to Myrtle Beach during his sophomore year and the Tigers romp through the Coastal Carolina Regional. He remembers the trip to Starkville, Miss., where the team came within a couple of wins of reaching the CWS for a second straight year.

He remembers the car ride home last season after learning he was on the first Clemson team in 22 years not to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

"I appreciate this experience a lot," Hinson said. "I think being a junior last year and being an older guy and not doing what we were capable of doing, it kind of hurt. Going home in the car I had people calling me and asking me what I was going to do and I had no idea.

"So being back here this year and being a senior and only one of two guys that has been here four years and actually went to Omaha before, it's really exciting to me and I appreciate this team and all of those who have worked so hard to get us back to where Clemson baseball should be."

Earlier this year, pitching coach Kyle Bunn pointed to both Hinson and Vaughn before a practice and asked them if they realized they were the only players on the team that experienced what it's like to go to Omaha. That's when Hinson knew he had to step up and be a leader for this young Clemson team, even if it meant just coming into a game to get one out.

"It's just one of those things where I just have to draw from my experience and tell these younger guys what it's like to go and smell the funnel cakes," he said. "Just being there gives you chill bumps. It is almost like going to Fenway Park.

"It's an old stadium. You see it on T.V. and you watched the College World Series growing up. I think that it would be something to say one day that I have been there twice. Some of these guys need to experience this so they can help their team in the future get back."

Once a starter, Hinson has played the role as a middle-inning reliever for the most part this year. And he hasn't taken that personal. Most starters might complain and become a cancer to a clubhouse when asked to drop back as a middle-inning guy, but Hinson took the high-road and knows he was only asked to do so because it was the best thing for the team.

"Being a senior I just wanted to come in here and have a good year and be consistent throughout the year and be able to pitch as much as I wanted to and I have been able to do that," he said. "I'm kind of excited that I have quietly been consistent and doing my job and hopefully it will work out for us in the end."

Quietly Hinson has had a good season. The lefty from Rock Hill (S.C) has a 2-0 record to go along with a 3.25 ERA in 36 innings of work. He has made 25 appearances and has 45 strikeouts to just 17 walks.

"Ryan has the experience of having been there and pitched there so hopefully that will come out and allow him to have some good innings this weekend and if we are fortunate to keep on playing he will have some good innings beyond that," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said.

Hinson says this year, with how far this team has come and matured, has been as fun to be a part of as it was the CWS team of 2006. In a way, it's been more for the senior because this time around he is the one being sought after for advice.

"Coach Bunn told me to be a leader and help this team out in any way that I can," Hinson said. "I figure if I just try not to put too much pressure on myself than I can go out there and be successful… I don't need to be a super hero. I just need to be Ryan Hinson. If I do that then things will work out.

"That's how it's been so far this year. It's been an exciting year."

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