CLEMSON - Historically, Clemson baseball has fared just fine against Virginia. Recently, and rigorously, the tables have turned.
Even though the Tigers have won essentially two of every three games against the Cavaliers (103-50 all-time), that margin used to be far more dominant. In the decade since the start of the 2004 season, Virginia has rolled up a 23-5 record against Clemson, including a sterling 11-1 mark in Charlottesville.
So while No. 14 Clemson has been reasonably steady in ACC play this year (20-12, 9-5 ACC), a mighty challenge awaits in this weekend's three-game set at No. 2 Virginia (28-5, 12-3.) The Cavs are 18-1 at home this spring.
The Tigers hold a slight advantage in batting average (.292 to .283), but the Cavaliers possess one of the most dominant pitching staffs in college baseball (2.01 ERA.)
Clemson, with a 4.17 ERA, has struggled to find depth on the mound, and if usual weekend starters Daniel Gossett and Jake Long aren't able to return from injuries, the task gets that much taller.
Matthew Crownover (6-2, 2.23) is scheduled to get the ball Friday night against fellow left-hander Nathan Kirby (6-1, 1.03), coming off a complete-game no-hitter at Pittsburgh in which he struck out 18 Panthers. It was Kirby's first career appearance in the eighth and ninth innings.
Saturday and Sunday starters have yet to be announced by Clemson coach Jack Leggett.
To puncture cracks in the Virginia rotation, Clemson will look for the bats to stay hot for infielders Steve Wilkerson and Weston Wilson, hitting higher than .400 in their last 10 games.
The Tigers' only positional starters without a .300 batting average are catcher Chris Okey, who leads the team with 30 RBIs, and first baseman Shane Kennedy, struggling to a .222 clip as he continues his return from an ACL tear.
Friday's first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m., while Saturday starts at 2:30 and Sunday at 1 p.m.