Tigers get ACC reprieve


CLEMSON -- The Tigers' baseball team has the weekend off from Atlantic Coast Conference play, hosting Florida Gulf Coast in a four-game series beginning at 6:30 p.m. today at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers are playing an unusual series format, Saturday through Tuesday, due to exams.

The break might come at an ideal time for Clemson, as the Tigers have lost three straight ACC series and 14 of their last 22 games to fall to third in the ACC Atlantic (25-16, 11-10 ACC), trailing Boston College by a game and Florida State by three games.

The drought has also likely cost the Tigers a shot at hosting an NCAA Regional.

While Baseball American's Aaron Fitt believes the Tigers should have no problem making the NCAA field, Clemson has fallen to a No. 3 in SEBaseball.com's latest projection.

The projection has Clemson as a No. 3 seed at the Myrtle Beach Regional along with No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina, No. 2 seed The Citadel and fourth-seeded Wagner.

Following the weekend series against Florida Gulf Coast, the Tigers play seven straight games on the road, including trips to ACC opponents Maryland (May 7-10) and Wake Forest (May 14-16).

The Tigers then return home for a critical home series against Florida State (May 20-22) before traveling to the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

Though Florida Gulf Coast (27-13) is not a national powerhouse, the Tigers will face a difficult test today against Eagles ace Chris Sale, a potential first-round draft pick in June. Sale is 6-0 with a 2.15 ERA and 93 strikeouts and just nine wakes in 67 innings.

After struggling with UNC ace Matt Harvey last week -- Harvey struck out 15 Tigers -- Clemson meets Sale, whose fastball touches 94 mph. His slider is a strikeout pitch and he also has a quality changeup. Sale also throws with an unorthodox delivery.

Clemson will counter with the same top three starters as last weekend. Casey Harman will start today against Sale, followed by Scott Weisman and Dominic Leone, a freshman who will attempt to build off a quality outing in his first weekend start against North Carolina last weekend.

The Tigers hope Kyle Parker continues his productivity. Parker is leading the ACC in slugging percentage (.764) and home runs (16) and is fourth in on-base percentage (.506).

Reach Travis Sawchik at tsawchik@postandcourier.com and check out his Clemson blog at www.postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks.