Clemson surrounded by CWS champions at regional

Clemson coach Jack Leggett talks to then-Arizona State coach Tim Esmay prior to their game against each other in the 2010 College World Series. AP Photo/File

It’s not often Clemson, college baseball’s eighth-winningest program, lacks tradition in the face of its competition.

Head coach Jack Leggett is nestled in the top five winningest active coaches, and Clemson’s 12 trips to the College World Series rank No. 11 in the country.

To that end, Clemson’s change of scenery for its latest NCAA regional — approximately 2,000 miles to the west, just southeast of Los Angeles — will be a change of scenery in terms of championship pedigree belonging to the Tigers’ foes.

Clemson’s opponent Friday, Arizona State, boasts five national championships in 22 trips to the College World Series — respectively, the fourth- and third-highest totals nationally. In fact, only Southern Cal (12 titles, 21 trips) and Texas (six titles, 35 trips) join ASU in the five-and-20 club.

It has been a while, however, since the Sun Devils topped the college baseball world; their five titles were all between 1965 and 1981, and they, like Clemson, have not been to the CWS in five years.

The Tigers actually defeated ASU, 6-3, in the 2010 College World Series, though they eventually lost twice to South Carolina in their most recent games in Omaha. ASU swept two games from Clemson at the super regional in Tempe in 2009.

Meanwhile, regional host and top seed Cal State Fullerton has been a prominent fixture in the sport’s upper ranks, capturing crowns in 1979, 1984, 1995 and 2004. Cal State Fullerton is making its 24th straight NCAA tournament appearance, trailing only Miami and Florida State for the longest overall and active streaks recorded.

The Titans have been to the College World Series 16 times; the only other non-Power 5 program with double-digit visits is Northern Colorado, whose last of its 10 trips was 41 years ago. Rice is next in line from the mid-major bunch, with seven CWS berths.

Cal State Fullerton has one runner-up finish, to the team that rounds out the region it will host. Pepperdine, which has only been to two College World Series, won the 1992 championship and represents the No. 4 seed in Fullerton.

Therefore, it’ll be the first time in program history Clemson will be surrounded only by competitors owning national championships in this, the Tigers’ 40th NCAA regional appearance.