Overcoming obstacles

CLEMSON - When Wilson Boyd stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the 11th inning against No. 5 national seed North Carolina in the ACC Tournament last month, Clemson hitting coach Tom Riginos knew the redshirt junior from Hickory, N.C., was going to make contact.

"You don't know if it was going to be a hit or not, but I felt really good with his presence in the box and his rhythm, you just knew he was going to make good contact," Riginos said.

And boy did he make contact.

Boyd drove the pitch off the Blue Monster in left field, while lifting the Tigers to a 4-3 victory and securing perhaps their regional bid to host in the process.

Then, in the second game of the Clemson Regional the next weekend, the centerfielder kept up his recent hot pace with a double in the Tigers' 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Tennessee Tech.

"I go out there every day with a good attitude and I try not to put too much stress or pressure on myself which I felt like I was doing when I came back from missing games in the mid-part of the season," Boyd said at the end of the year.

"I've just hit that comfort level and I'm just going out there and having fun."

Things weren't so fun for Boyd, however, just a few short months ago.

Earlier in March an ulcer on his cheek in became infected following a procedure that removed his wisdom teeth. The infection eventually led to one of the scariest moments in his life when it got so bad it led to paralysis on the left side of his face and took away part of his vision in the process.

Boyd discovered he had Bell's palsy, a paralysis of the cranial nerve (the facial nerve) resulting in the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side.

"That was real tough for me," Boyd said.

What was even tougher was the fact the disease caused him to miss 14 games.

"It's not so much missing the games during it that hurt, but coming back and trying to get back and be successful was real strenuous and stressful," Boyd said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself when I came back, but once classes got out, I settled in and I'm having fun again."

However in the last 16 games of the regular season, Boyd certainly returned to his old self and then some. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior hit .517 with 16 RBIs and a home run during that stretch.

At one point he recorded six straight games with at least two hits.

"It was more confidence and me starting to find my comfort level at the plate again," Boyd said. "Once I got back I just started to work and I went from there."

But Boyd was working even before he got back.

Riginos says the reason Boyd was able to get back to the form he had at the beginning of the season was because he never lost his rhythm.

"He kept swinging when he was going through everything, so he kept his rhythm up and when he got hurt he was hitting the ball so his confidence level was already up," Riginos said. "It wasn't like he was down. When he came back and got a couple of quick hits, he got going again."

Boyd finished the year second on the team with a .341 average, as well as third in doubles and triples and tied for second in walks.

"In the middle part of the year he had some rough things to get through and he did a nice job with it and kept his head in the game," Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. "The game has come back to him and we talk about that all the time. When a kid gets injured or isn't playing well, we tell them to keep your head in the game and keep focused on what you have to do and keep working hard.

"He continued to do those things and it worked out real well for him so hopefully he will have a great postseason for us as well."

The whole key for Boyd has been his rhythm. He was in a pretty good rhythm before the Bell's palsy and now he is Clemson's most consistent hitter.

"His big key is his confidence and his rhythm and right now he is going pretty good," Riginos said. "He picked it up pretty quick and it was amazing how quickly he got into it and he is a big rhythm hitter.

"Once he got his rhythm going and was right on, his confidence level started to grow. That's the whole thing with Will Boyd. He has a real good idea of what he has to do swing wise so you really don't talk mechanics wise with him. It's just keeping his rhythm and his confidence going. He is every smart on how many swings he needs.

"He is very intelligent about that."

And one thing is for sure, he is going to make contact.

"He said he couldn't pick up the spin on the ball as well when he first got back, but when he started to pick up the spin, I mean everything just started to fly out the door," Riginos said. "You could see it. Even in that last at-bat (against North Carolina), you knew he was going to make contact."

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