AUBURN, Ala. -- Plainsman Park is a verdant oasis for offenses. Picture Fenway Park, only cozier.
During batting practice on the eve of Clemson's 3 p.m. NCAA opener today against Southern Miss, Clemson sluggers lofted pitch after pitch over the outfield fence.
Kyle Parker and company cleared the 385-foot sign in center field regularly Thursday, a barrier 15 feet closer than at their home park. Clemson's left-handed batters, to which the park is especially generous, practiced hitting toward Auburn's green monster, resting a mere 315 feet down the left-field line and 335 feet to left center. Left field has so often been a favorite target of batters, the 30-foot high wall is dimpled like a golf ball.
Clemson coach Jack Leggett might have been well served to keep Game 1 starter Scott Weismann away from batting practice to protect his pitching psyche.
"You want to keep the ball on the ground," said Weismann after surveying his weekend surroundings.
Arriving at the Auburn Regional, it is easy to understand how No. 1 seed Auburn leads the country in home runs (117), why the SEC Tigers' lineup is left-handed heavy, and why the team best at inducing hitters to pound groundballs in the Alabama piedmont stands the best chance to advance.
Clemson's lineup is loaded with left-handed power, like shortstop Brad Miller, seemingly well-suited for the site.
"It reminds us a lot of the Greenville Drive stadium in Greenville where we play a couple times a year," Miller said. "I don't think you can let a field dictate your (approach) too much. I think we are just excited to see a new field. It's kind of like we are showing up on road series -- you gotta get comfortable with it."
Auburn coach John Pawlowski's lineup is also left-handed heavy, including Hunter Morris, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
"With our recruiting efforts we try to find best hitters we can possibly find," said Pawlowski, who has led Auburn to its first NCAA appearance since 2005. "If a guy is left-handed, it's a bonus for our park."
While both Tigers teams have an advantage with their plethora of left-handed sluggers, Clemson will be challenged against Southern Miss.
Hoping to begin consecutive marches to Omaha, the Golden Eagles will start ace Scott Copeland (11-0, 3.83 ERA).
Copeland does not overpower opponents with his 85-88 mph fastball, rather the righty prefers to induce groundballs with his sinker-slider combination, an ideal arsenal to combat Plainsman Park.
"He sinks the ball down," Leggett said. "He's got a good breaking ball, he's quick to the plate. His intent is to try to get a lot of groundballs. He gets the ball down in the lower half of the zone, and lets his defense play behind him."
Pitching low in the zone will be a key for Weismann, who struggled at the ACC tournament.
Leggett said he elected to start the right-handed Weismann (6-2, 5.47 ERA) over Clemson's usual No. 1 starter Casey Harman, a lefty, due to Southern Miss's right-handed rich lineup.
"You try to go matchup a little bit," Leggett said. "(Weismann) has gotta work down in the zone, get his slider going, get his change going … get that aggressive mentality he has when he is successful."
To be successful against Copeland, Clemson hitting coach Tom Riginos said it will be critical for Clemson to use an all-fields approach, which should be made easier with the tempting left-field wall. Just ask Morris, who leads the SEC with 21 home runs and is third in batting (.392).
"Everyone is facing the same obstacles, the same elements," Morris said. "You are playing in the same ballpark. When you step on a baseball field, the field is even."