Omaha or bust in 2010

TEMPE, Ariz. - After making a run to the super regional round that no one expected them to make, the Clemson Tigers, who field one of its youngest teams in recent memory, will more than likely be one of the favorites to get to the College World Series next year.

"This has definitely been a learning experience," left fielder Jeff Schaus said. "It proves that every game counts in the regular season," left fielder Jeff Schaus said. "To come on the road is tough and (Arizona State has) a great crowd here and I think if we had been with our fans we would have had a better chance, but I'm definitely encouraged about next year and we will be excited to get back at it."

The question is who will be back next year? At least four Clemson underclassmen are expected to be drafted today in Major League Baseball's Amateur Draft.

Freshmen pitcher Chris Dwyer, who is eligible to be drafted due to the fact he turned 21 years of age before the draft, is being talked about anywhere from second to fifth round. First baseman Ben Paulsen is also a top-five round prospect, while pitcher Graham Stoneburner is expected to be drafted in the top 15 rounds.

Then there is second baseman Mike Freeman. Scouts have loved what they have seen from the junior this year, especially the way he can hit the ball to any part of the field.

"He can put the ball anywhere," Clemson hitting coach Tom Riginos said.

Freeman is expected to be drafted anywhere from the 10th to the 20th round.

So which one of these four will come back next season? That's hard to say. Paulsen says he has tried not to think about the draft until the season is over. However, if the junior first baseman is picked in the top three rounds like some scouts believe, then it will be hard for him to turn down that kind of opportunity, knowing this is his only year with real negotiating power.

Also keep in mind there are not too many power hitters in this year's draft and though he has shown some inconsistency at times, he does have the ability to be a big-league slugger.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Paulsen said last week. "Obviously, I would love to comeback to Clemson, but right now I can't think about that. When that happens I will sit down and decide what is in the best interest of me."

Stoneburner is an interesting pick as well. He could go either way, but if he can negotiate a nice signing bonus then he will more than likely not come back. Like Dwyer, Stoneburner also has some negotiating power being that he is a redshirt sophomore and has two years of eligibility as opposed to one like Paulsen and Freeman.

Dwyer's case is the most intriguing because he is a true freshman that can always come back and improve his stock. But can he improve it enough to become a first round draft choice. A tall lefty, scouts like his ability to throw different pitches, plus he has a strong arm, but what turns some away is his immaturity in dealing with adversity.

He was so dominant in high school he rarely dealt with it, if not at all. When he was on, like in last week's Clemson regional against Oklahoma State, no one could touch him. He went eight innings, allowed just one run and 13 strikeouts in the 15-1 victory.

But then there were nights like Sunday's Super Regional in which he was lifted in the fifth inning after giving up two hits and three runs and walking three. He recorded seven strikeouts and gave up just two hits through the first four innings.

Some scouts believe Dwyer could help himself both mentally and physically by coming back another season, but they also believe from a physical standpoint he is ready to make the move.

Depending on if any of those four should return to Clemson next year, the Tigers should be one of the teams to beat in 2010.

The Tigers know Schaus, who really turned it on this year, is coming back along with freshman standout pitcher Scott Weismann, catcher John Nester, shortstop Brad Miller, third baseman Jason Stolz, centerfielder Wilson Boyd, right fielder Kyle Parker and designated hitter Chris Epps are also so back.

With those guys back and several other high-character guys back in the fold as well, next season could be another special season that ends up in Omaha.

"I'm proud of the seniors and I'm proud of the young kids. We have come a long way from our team last year," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "We grew up a lot as the season went along and there were less than 16 teams playing (Sunday) and we were one of them.

"We want to take it one step further so we are highly motivated to get back here again next year." Top Stories