Tigers facing familiar foe

OMAHA - About this time a year ago, Richie Shaffer had to choose between one of two destinations: Clemson or Los Angeles.

As a senior at Charlotte's Providence High School, the Dodgers selected Shaffer with a 25th round draft pick in 2009.

"I wanted to come to Clemson. I wanted to experience all of this," Shaffer said. "I couldn't be happier with all of my decisions."

Hindsight is easily 20/20.

Shaffer, who is batting.322 with seven homers and 34 RBIs, played a big part in last weekend's Super Regional, helping Clemson to the school's 12th appearance in the College World Series.

An annual College World Series viewer, Shaffer guessed that he's watched college baseball's signature event every year since he was in middle school.

"I was always playing in baseball tournaments when it was going on. All the guys would sit down and we'd watch it," he said. "They were always great games. Every game's a great game in Omaha. It's always looked liked such an amazing experience."

Clemson (43-23) plays top remaining seed Arizona State (52-8) on Sunday at 7 p.m. (EST).

The Sun Devils booted the Tigers from the tournament a year ago in the Tempe Super Regional.

Redshirt sophomore third baseman John Hinson said a vendetta has not been set for Arizona State.

The off-season talks among teammates leading to the 2010 season focused on the destination for mid to late June.

"We were only two wins away from Omaha (in 2009). That was more of the topic of discussion," he said, "the fact that we were so close to last year."

It just so happens the first crack in Omaha comes against Arizona State.

"They're a different team," Hinson said. "They had a major leaguer playing for them last year. They're a number one seed, but we're good too. We have confidence that we can beat them."

Arizona State's ace last year, Mike Leake, is currently playing for the Cincinnati Reds. After being drafted with eighth pick in 2009, the Reds decided Leake was ready to start in the big leagues in 2010. So far this season, the rookie is 5-1 with a 3.02 ERA.

"They have a lot of their top players back," said Clemson coach Jack Leggett, who's making his sixth appearance in the College World Series.

"They're missing their two top pitchers (from 2009)…the third pitcher has become their number one guy and is pitching very, very well for them.

Seth Blair and Merrill Kelly lead the Sun Devils starting pitching staff into Omaha this year. Blair has a 3.35 ERA in 102 innings while Kelly has a 3.57 ERA in 98-1/3 innings.

The bullpen is led by the trio of Jordan Swagerty, Brady Rodgers and Mitchell Lambson.

Swagerty leads the team with 14 saves and also has a 2.06 ERA. Rodgers has three saves in 21 appearances with a 2.03 ERA while Lambson has made 37 appearances and has a 2.10 ERA in 68-2/3 innings.

At the plate, Arizona State is led by Riccio Torrez, who is batting .399 with 27 doubles, 10 homeruns and 53 RBIs. Zack MacPhee is hitting .394 with 14 triples, nine homers and 64 RBIs.

"They have experience players at every position. They're very aggressive. They have 135 stolen bases. They're a strong offensive team," Leggett said.

CUTigers.com Top Stories