CLEMSON — Richie Shaffer confessed something rarely spoken of in sports on Monday. The Clemson star said he and his teammates were guilty of looking ahead to a Super Regional meeting with rival South Carolina last spring before their work was completed in regional play. Shaffer believes as a consequence, Connecticut celebrated a regional title at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
The psychological trap was set again Monday when Clemson learned it earned a No. 2 seed at the Columbia Regional.
Clemson wants so badly to play and defeat a South Carolina team that has won two straight College World Series, a program that eliminated the Tigers from the 2010 College World Series. Clemson wants so badly to achieve some level of revenge against the No. 1 seed Gamecocks, which beat the Tigers in a series earlier this season.
But Clemson (33-25) knows it must learn from history and focus on No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina (41-17), which it opens play against at noon Friday (ESPNU) at Carolina Stadium. The Chanticleers’ nation-best 2.53 ERA is tough to overlook.
“I think in the back of our minds we were all really looking forward to the possibility of playing South Carolina,” Shaffer said of last spring. “We have to learn from our mistakes. We have to be 100 percent ready to for (Friday). ... We can’t look ahead to anything else. We just have to play our game and keep our cool.”
Clemson’s game has been inconistent all season.
The Tigers enter the NCAA Tournament having lost five of six games. But prior to last weekend, the Tigers had won six of seven series, finally having found their offensive rhythm.
The Tigers starting pitching staff has been in flux since a hamstring injury to ace Kevin Brady last month. Coach Jack Leggett was not prepared to announce pitching assignments Monday.
Leggett said Dominic Leone, Kevin Pohle and hard-throwing freshman Daniel Gossett will be his first three options to start games in the double-elimination format but he’s not sure of the order. Leggett indicated Brady will likely remain in the bullpen as he builds up arm strength.
Brady pitched 12/3 shutout innings against Florida State on Friday, throwing 40 pitches in his second relief appearance since missing three straight starts with a hamstring injury. Brady allowed just one run over six innings and struck out seven in his start against South Carolina in March.
“His endurance level is not all that significant right now,” Leggett said. “I don’t think there is any specific pitch count … (but) I would say he’s more of a relief pitcher for us.”
Brady indicated he would embrace an opportunity to start a game.
“I would go as long as they need me to,” Brady said. “It’s postseason time. You have to lay everything on the line.”
Clemson has little familiarity with Coastal Carolina’s top starters having faced the Chanticleers mostly in midweek games. Coastal won at Clemson, 10-7, in their only meeting this season.
Coastal has just 23 home runs as a team but 83 steals in 58 games.
“We just have to stay focused on the game,” Leggett said. “When you start looking ahead, when you looking behind that’s where you’re run into trouble.”