CLEMSON — When Stuart Lake was a coach at Brookland-Cayce High School in the late 1990s, he worked Jack Leggett’s baseball camps, paying close attention to how the Clemson coach operated.
While working as a volunteer coach at South Carolina in the early 2000s, Lake received an up-close view of both in-state baseball powers, studying both Clemson and South Carolina to one day apply those lessons to his own program.
Now in his fourth season as the head coach at Charleston Southern (14-24), Lake, the Big South coach of the year last season, meets one of his key influences in Leggett when the Buccaneers travel to Clemson (20-17) for a 6:30 p.m. game today.
“I’ve looked up to coach Leggett my whole career,” Lake said. “He just shows up every day and works. His teams are like him, they show up every day. That intensity, that’s what I admire. He’s a big influence on me.”
While Lake will enjoy catching up with Leggett today, the main purpose of the trip is for his young Charleston Southern team to become familiar with the caliber of programs it will face if it can earn an NCAA regional berth, which is Lake’s goal.
Charleston Southern graduated 11 seniors from last season’s team that went 15-12 in the Big South and won 29 games overall, a 12-game improvement over 2010.
“The biggest thing is I want us to be a team that plays in regionals,” Lake said. “Regionals are going to be held in those venues (like Clemson), it’s the main reason we went to Auburn (in March).”
The trip to Clemson is also an important game for recruiting purposes.
“We recruit so hard in-state,” Lake said. “This is a big game to get on our schedule. The kids are excited. In South Carolina you grow up a Gamecock or a Tiger.”
Of course, CSU will be considered an underdog tonight after losing, 19-1, at Clemson last season. Lake will start pitcher Kevin Buran, who is 0-4 with a 5.77 ERA.
At Clemson, Lake is hoping to see a complete effort which has eluded the team for much of the season.
“We feel like we’ve pitched pretty well all year,” Lake said “Finally, our hitting has come around.”