Oklahoma State will take on Nebraska in the first round of the Clemson regional on Friday. This is an interesting regional for Oklahoma State, and is certainly one that if things go correctly, they could advance to the Super Regional.
We talked with Patrick from Shaking The Southland, the SBNation.com site for Clemson athletics. He gave us his take on Clemson baseball, the regional as a whole, and what to expect from the Tigers. His analysis was excellent. Check out what he had to say below:
1) Who should OSU be looking out for with Clemson? Who are the standout players for the Tigers?
Patrick: Well, to start off with, True Freshman sensation Seth Beer is a key cog in the middle of the Tiger's order. This year, he became the first player in ACC history to win ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Player of the Year Honors in the same season, while batting close to .400 for most of the season and to this point tallying 16 dingers. Not too bad for a kid who graduated high school early to be a part of this team. Next up, we have Chris Okey who is a solid all around catcher who can hit for power but still get on base in other ways. Also, he's rather good defensively and has a live arm.
In terms of pitchers, we have Clate Schmidt who will be our Saturday starter as of right now and he has been on a bit of a tear recently. He started the season strong and had a great outing against South Carolina prior to conference play. Schmidt began to fade in the center of the season but in his last 3 outings has looked the best he probably ever has in a Tigers uniform. The key man out of the bullpen (who also has spot started in a couple of key games) is Pat Krall. He has a 1.31 ERA, good enough for 5th nationally and he sports a 10-1 record with 5 saves on the year. He won't wow you with his fastball but has excellent command.
Final wild card player is utility man Mike Triller. In the ACC tournament he caught absolutely on fire and raised his average from below .200 all the way to .263 in the 4 games in Durham en route to tournament MVP. If he can continue this performance then the Tigers offense will be tough to stop.
2) What were your expectations for Clemson going into the season? Have they overachieved?
Patrick: Expectations for this team were to be a middle of the road ACC team and make a regional as a 2 seed as most, more likely a 3. The team did nothing to dissapoint by dropping the first game of the year to Maine, 4 to 3 (the Tigers did salvage the remaining two games still, not encouraging). But, after the South Carolina series which saw us take 2 of 3, the expectations began to rise and murmurs of hosting a regional began to take footing. Then regression to the mean happened as conference play began which saw the Tigers get swept by Miami, lose 2 of 3 to Duke, get swept by Louisville, lose 2 of 3 to Georgia Tech. Yikes.
The real turning of the tide began on our homestretch to end the season by taking 2 of 3 from both NC State and Florida State (who were both top 10 teams respectively at the time of playing) and then going on the road to end ACC play and sweep Notre Dame on the road to secure a pool spot in the ACC tournament and a winning conference record. At this point, the RPI numbers were indicating that we could host a regional. Thankfully, due to our sweep of the ACC tournament and taking down top clubs in Louisville, Virginia, and Florida State along the way, we secured our #7 national seed.
So, to end the long windedness, they definitely overachieved.
3) How do you expect the regional to play out? Is there a certain team that scares you, as Clemson is the favorite?
Patrick: I expect the regional to go pretty much chalk but I think that Oklahoma State poses the biggest threat (shades of 2009 flooding back here). Really, this regional will all depend on who pitches win, which is often indicative of many of these regionals. Clemson plans to throw their Friday starter game 1 and treat this like a regular weekend. If Oklahoma State can save ace Thomas Hatch for the potential Saturday matchup with Clemson (knock on wood here for both of our fan bases) then things could get interesting.
In reality, I think that the only upsets of this regional will be Nebraska getting upset by Western Carolina to knock them out in 2 games. Other than that, it should be straightforward. I hope. (Gulp).
4) How do you beat Clemson?
Patrick: To beat this Clemson team, I think the best formula is to chase the starter early and get into the pen (revolutionary, I know). But Clemson's pitching staff can be a bit lackluster at times, and I would attribute this to a lot of youth on the staff and the fact that a lot of the weekend rotation didn't really get settled down until the second half of the season. But, if you can chase our starter early and get to our pen, then you have a fighting chance.
Another item would be to just put the ball in play and to see if we mess up. We really have a knack for allowing 2 out hits, walks, errors, etc. to pile up on us. If you can at least make us work for it, chances are we will spot you a run or two.
Finally, the last key component would be to pitch carefully to the top half of our order, specifically the aforementioned Beer and Okey, and also Chase Pinder. All are proven commodities when the lights get brighter and teams down the stretch have actively pitched away to avoid damage from them.
5) What are Clemson’s strengths? Conversely, what are their weaknesses?
Patrick: On paper, there's not really much to say is a strength for this Clemson team. In many major stat categories, the Tigers have many team averages that hover in the 100's and some into the 200's. The major strength would be that this team is scrappy and can win games late and in various ways. This season seems to have more walkoff and late inning wins than the past 10 years combined, and that is a major nod to Monte Lee having this team playing loose and fun baseball.
The weakness however is one that has been hovering over this team for what seems like an eternity. Fielding. We can get down right atrocious and ugly at fielding the ball sometimes, and even that may be putting it lightly.
A special thanks to Patrick and Shaking The Southland for their time! Good luck, and Go Pokes!