CLEMSON -- When looking at last season's statistics, when seeing fly balls travel 30 to 60 feet less than a year earlier, one would figure Clemson to be among those teams most hurt by the new, offense- suppressing bats this spring.
The Tigers slugged their way to the College World Series last season. Three players hit 15 or more home runs, powering out 93 home runs as a team, their most since 2002 when Clemson homered 112 times and also advanced to Omaha, Neb.
Last season, Kyle Parker alone hit 20 home runs. The 2002 team had three players with at least 25 home runs, including 27 from Khalil Greene.
With the new bats, the power-ball era of college baseball is over, at least for this season. Clemson has hit just 39
home runs as a team this spring. But thanks to offensive adaptation, Clemson is in position to land an NCAA hosting bid with a strong showing at the ACC tournament this week in Durham, N.C. Clemson opens play against Georgia Tech at 11 a.m. today (Fox Sports Carolinas).
The Tigers enter the postseason 18th in the nation in runs scored (361) and 18th in the country in batting average (.318) thanks to its ability to adapt. That's thanks to a new strategy of gap-to-gap hitting and an aggressive approach on the bases. Clemson has 98 steals good for 15th in the country.
"We have some guys that can run," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "I think we just started rolling and got some confidence."
Long-limbed athletes with level swings like Clemson's Will Lamb, Richie Shaffer, John Hinson and Brad Miller have proven to be adaptable to different styles of play.
Miller earned ACC player of the year honors this week, leading the conference in batting average (.431), on-base percentage (.536) and tying for a team best with 21 steals.
Miller's season could compel the junior to leave for professional baseball after the season, as he's ranked as one of the top draft-eligible middle infielders by Baseball America.
"There was definitely an adjustment period," Miller told reporters of the new bats, "but at the end of the day it's just another bat. You might not see the power numbers, but the guys that can hit can still hit. I wasn't focusing on the (new bats) too much. I was focused on barreling up pitches and hitting them hard."
Maintaining a healthy offense was critical for Clemson as the pitching staff, while effective since midseason (3.12 ERA), still lacks the power arms to dominate opponents. This was the also the situation last June when the Tigers averaged 8.4 runs per game in the NCAA tournament. Clemson is averaging 7.2 runs per game this season.
--Clemson ace Dominic Leone, tabbed to start today, hopes to get plenty of support against Georgia Tech, matching up with Yellow Jackets ace Mark Pope (11-3, 1.54 ERA).
Clemson has not announced starting pitchers for its Thursday or Saturday games.