Three keys to victory

OMAHA, Neb. - If the Tigers are going to advance to the winner's bracket Sunday night against No. 1 Arizona State, it starts with these three keys.

KEEP THE HOT BATS GOING

In six of the seven games during NCAA Tournament play, Clemson has scored five or more runs. The Tigers are batting .349 with a .564 slugging percentage and .409 on-base percentage during the tournament.

Third baseman John Hinson has been the team's best bat in tournament play, going 14-for-28 (.500) with five homeruns and 10 RBIs. His counterpart across the diamond at first base, freshman Richie Shaffer, has three homers and 10 RBIs.

Though Clemson head coach Jack Leggett wouldn't show his entire hand, he has indicated that Chris Epps would be hitting in the leadoff spot as the designated hitter, allowing for Will Lamb to be sued more as a pitcher. In the two Super Regional game Epps played in, he went 3-for-7, stole a base and scored a pair of runs.

Right fielder Kyle Parker, who has just one homerun in the NCAA Tournament, is 9-for-29 (.310) with 8 RBIs in the NCAA Tournament. If he's able to inject some power into the lineup, it makes the Tigers' bats that much more dangerous in Omaha, particularly if the wind is blowing out in Rosenblatt Stadium.

DEFENSE

A defensive mishap nearly came back to bite Clemson on the backside in the ninth inning of Alabama's two out rally in Monday's deciding game in the Super Regional.

Mistakes like that in the field need to be left back home at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. It's not going to fly against a potent Arizona State offense that is batting .338 with a .539 slugging percentage and has a .436 on-base percentage.

What's scarier is the Sun Devil's lust for larceny. Arizona State is eighth in the nation with 134 stolen bases.

The pitching batter of Casey Harman and Spencer Kieboom should keep the Sun Devils base runners in check. Harman is left-handed and Kieboom has a strong arm when throwing down to second base.

MOW THEM DOWN CASEY

If there was a ballot for Clemson's NCAA Tournament MVP, Harman's name would have to be considered. The junior lefty is 1-1 with a 1.56 ERA in two starts during the tournament.

Harman has been a horse in both starts. He went the distance in the 5-2 win over Auburn in the Regional and 8-1/3 in the 5-4 loss to Alabama.

Most impressive of it all, Harman has struck out 17 batters and walked just one.

If the Tigers are serious about making a deep run in Omaha, another long outing from Harman would go a long way in preserving the arms in the bullpen for what could be a long stay.


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