on June 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Clemson can make case for Myrtle Beach being home away from home

MYRTLE BEACH — It was 17 days ago when No. 18 Clemson last played in front of its loyal faithful at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Barring some miracle, it isn’t likely the Tigers will play a home game again this spring.

Clemson (38-21) begins its road to the College World Series today at noon on the road as it takes on St. John’s in the first game of the Myrtle Beach Regional at Coastal Federal Field.

“We just take this as another road trip and another part of the schedule we are going to have to go down,” Clemson shortstop Taylor Harbin said. “We have to take our show on the road. In college baseball you have to be able to go on the road and win. When you make it to Omaha it is not a home game so you have to go there and figure a way to win.”

But playing at Myrtle Beach is the next best thing for Clemson. Though Coastal Carolina is the host team and is the regional’s top seed, many, including some of the Tigers, view this tournament as a home away from home event.

“We will have a good amount of fans down here definitely, but obviously we are not playing at Tiger Field,” Clemson first base Andy D’Alessio said. “It is not quite the home field advantage we’re used to, but it is in the State of South Carolina and we do have a big following and we always travel well and have a good amount of fans at each game.”

Because of Clemson’s rabid fan base and alumni in the area, game officials are expecting a big turnout of people dressed in orange and purple today, Saturday and Sunday.

For a Clemson team that appears to have turned its season around as of late, that’s the best news they can here.

“It isn’t really Coastal’s field,” freshman outfielder Alex Lee said. “They don’t play all their games there. Hopefully we can get an edge on them.

“I guess being in South Carolina it is a home game. Some family and friends will be able to see us play and yeah it is not a big advantage to (Coastal Carolina), I don’t think.”

Clemson coach Jack Leggett, however, is warning his team not to get too far ahead of itself. The Tigers first must play a St. John’s team that has won 40 of its last 50 games after starting the season 0-7.

The Storm (40-17) is hitting .330 with third baseman Gil Zayas leading the way with a .363 average, including 21 doubles and 53 RBIs. Outfielder Brian Kemp is batting .361 with a team-high 25 steals and second baseman Sam DeLuca is hitting .352 with 18 doubles and 45 RBIs, and has walked 22 times against only eight strikeouts.

The pitching staff has a 3.47 ERA and .262 opponents’ batting average. It has also allowed just 20 homers and 161 walks with 398 strikeouts. Right-hander Colin Lynch has a 2.45 ERA and 11 saves in 24 relief appearances.

“I’m just concerned about (tonight) and beating St. John’s,” Leggett said. “They are a team that has won 40 of their last 50 games. They are playing really well and they have a lot of kids playing with confidence so that is really my only worry.

“Hopefully, we can play well against them and whomever we have in the second game we got in the second game.”

But Clemson’s players still can’t help but think of what kind of opportunity they have playing in Myrtle Beach.

“We can’t take anyone for granted, but going to Coastal is going to be close to home for us too,” Harbin said. “It is not going to be a huge adjustment going away from home like it normally is… No matter where we go, we usually have a good fan following, but being this close to home we will have more of a fan base.”

If the Tigers can make it through the Myrtle Beach Regional, then odds are they might find themselves facing a familiar foe – Florida State – in the Super Regional Round.

“We would love to host, but you just have to love the opportunity to play in the tournament no matter where you are,” Lee said. “We still have a chance. If we win games, we are going to advance.

“It doesn’t matter where we play. We are playing to win.”