CLEMSON -- Clemson's ACC baseball tournament title hopes and hosting candidacy will be decided this week in Greensboro, N.C., with the opening test coming at 8 p.m. today against N.C. State.
To advance to Sunday's ACC championship game, the Tigers must navigate through some of the stronger lineups in the conference tournament.
N.C. State (532 runs, 90 home runs) and Saturday opponent Georgia Tech (517, runs 111 home runs) rank first and second in the ACC in home runs and runs scored. To add further difficulty for Clemson pitchers, NewBridge Bank Park is a hitter-friendly venue.
The Tigers, Wolfpack, Virginia Tech and Yellow Jackets comprise Division B and play each other once in the
round-robin format. The division winner advances to Sunday's title game.
The Tigers were a combined 6-3 against their division opponents this spring, sweeping N.C. State and Virginia Tech in March before losing three straight to the Yellow Jackets last month in Atlanta. Clemson has won 12 of its last 14 games.
"I think we are playing good baseball now," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said.
"The key is to maintain it. If you think you've got it figured out, this game will come up and slap you in the back of the head."
The Tigers (37-19, 18-12 ACC) should be motivated playing for a league title, and potentially home-field advantage in the national tournament. In his Monday chat, Baseball America college analyst Aaron Fitt said Clemson's performance at the tournament "will have a lot to do" with whether it hosts an NCAA regional.
Still, N.C. State (36-20, 15-15) is playing for even more.
N.C. State is projected as one of the last 10 teams out of the NCAA field by ESPN, and Baseball America has the Wolfpack as one of two ACC bubble teams, along with North Carolina.
State's usual No. 1 starter is Jake Buchanan, but the Wolfpack will start left-hander Alex Sogard (1-2, 5.49 ERA) in an effort to neutralize Clemson's heavy left-handed lineup.
Clemson went 3-0 against Florida State's lefties last weekend, but entered its final regular season series 11-12 against left-handed starters.
Leggett will counter with ace Casey Harman against the seventh-seeded Wolfpack.
"I always like to put out our best foot forward in the first ballgame," Leggett said. "Win the first ballgame and put yourself in the right frame of mind."
Clemson is off Thursday before facing Virginia Tech (36-19, 16-14) at 4 p.m. Friday. Clemson will likely start Scott Weismann against a Hokies team that has won three of its last four ACC series and is fourth in the conference with 70 home runs.
Clemson has not named a starter for the Georgia Tech (44-11, 21-9) game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Georgia Tech's top five batters Thomas Nichols (.384 avg., 10 home runs), Tony Plagman (.371, 19), Derek Dietrich (.374, 16), Chase Burnette (.354, 15) and Matt Skole (.346, 18) are all left-handed.
The left-handed heavy presence could mean left-hander Will Lamb gets the call. Lamb has been out of the rotation since Clemson lost to the Jackets on April 18, but his fastball appears to have regained its downward plane and velocity in recent bullpen sessions.
Clemson also hopes to avoid seeing Yellow Jacket ace Deck McGuire, who is a projected first-round pick.