CLEMSON - The air conditioning works just fine inside Clemson's baseball clubhouse, but sweat beads glistened on the brims of a few dozen Tigers dying to know their postseason fate.
Friday: No. 2 Oregon (42-18) vs. No. 3 Clemson (36-23), 1 p.m. (ESPN3.com); No. 1 Vanderbilt (41-18) vs. No. 4 Xavier (29-27), 8 p.m. (ESPN3.com)
Tickets: www.vucommodores.com, 1-877-44-VANDY
The heat was on the past few weeks; every win was precious, every loss a potential dagger to the Tigers' season. All that mattered now was a chance, any chance at all - and preferably away from Columbia, for a change.
Clemson's wish was granted, one final shot at redemption with entry to its 27th NCAA baseball tournament in 28 years.
"Getting in was a very, very good feeling," sophomore left-handed starter Matthew Crownover said. "We were kind of worried over here, but we know we've got a good enough team to make some noise."
The Tigers are the No. 3 seed out of four teams crashing Nashville, opening Friday against No. 2 seed Oregon while also jousting with host and top seed Vanderbilt as well as No. 4 Xavier in double elimination action this weekend.
Never in doubt, right, Jack?
"I'm going to be really honest with you," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "Regardless of what our record is, I'm always a little apprehensive going into it unless you're a true lock because of all the parity out there."
This year, a year unlike most for Clemson (36-23), Leggett had every reason to hold his breath.
The Tigers' No. 49 RPI is the second-worst of any at-large tournament selection, besting only Cal State Fullerton's No. 54 rating. Clemson even sneaked in ahead of West Virginia, Mercer and UCF, which each had better RPIs.
Another way to illustrate how fortunate Clemson was to hit the practice field Monday afternoon instead of cleaning lockers and saying good byes: two websites, Baseball America and Perfect Game, each correctly picked 63 of the 64 tournament qualifiers on their websites.
No. 64, Clemson, is sure glad they were wrong.
"Deserved to be in it," Leggett said. "It was a bit of a sleepless night, because you just never know where things will fall within the country. The kids were kind of apprehensive about what was going on, so it's a relief for them and now we can concentrate on playing baseball."
The Tigers aren't just an NCAA postseason mainstay; they've won at least one regional game in 26 of the past 27 tournaments.
Vanderbilt was ranked No. 19 in last week's Baseball America poll, but the Commodores (41-18) had the No. 8 RPI to finish the season and reportedly were one of the top teams considered for a national seed not to grab one of those eight coveted spots.
Tim Corbin, Vandy's head coach the past 12 seasons, was a Leggett assistant at Clemson from 1994-02. Corbin was along for the ride to four College World Series before taking over at Vanderbilt.
The Tigers have claimed two of three all-time matchups against Vanderbilt, but the programs haven't squared off since the mid-1980s. Oregon and Xavier have never faced Clemson.
Having lost six of their last nine NCAA regional games, the Tigers know they can't look ahead their 1 p.m. Friday tilt with Oregon (42-18) and worry about the mighty Commodores, who are 26-9 on their home field.
"Yeah, we're in Vanderbilt's region. But in my opinion, we're in Oregon's region right now," right fielder Steven Duggar said. "We've got to beat Oregon first. There's no ifs, ands or butts about it."
Notice about comments: