CLEMSON– “We feel like we’ve got a good team. The tougher it is–the better we like it.”
Those words were spoken by Clemson head baseball coach Monte Lee in reference to college baseball’s marquee series this upcoming weekend, as the No. 3 Tigers (34-8, 16-5 ACC) travel to tobacco road to take on the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels (33-9, 16-5 ACC) in what many around the nation believe could be a preview of the national championship series in Omaha should both teams advance.
If the Tigers’ are going to take the series from the Tar Heels, something that no other team has been successful in doing this season, they will have to navigate one of the nation’s top pitching staffs–the Tar Heels currently rank sixth in the nation with a team ERA of 2.68, Clemson ranks 12th with a 3.06 ERA.
As well as a lineup that has 37 home runs on the season, and is averaging seven runs per game.
“North Carolina is a dangerous team because they’re extremely athletic. There’s a lot of pro talent on North Carolina’s roster,” Lee said. “They can hit. They can hit-and-run They steal. They do a lot of different things to put pressure on the defense, and their pitching staff is loaded with guys that have above average fastballs and above average breaking balls.”
North Carolina will not waste any time showing off their pitching staff, as Friday starter J.B. Bukauskas ranks 20th in the nation in ERA at 1.53 and 13th in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings–averaging 12.39.
However, for Lee and the Tigers there is an understanding that after a subpar showing in Talahassee, which saw them lose two out of three games, if they want to make it to Omaha and have a chance to play for a national championship these are the types of series that they need to win.
“If you want to host a regional and accomplish those type of things (be a national seed)–this is what it’s going to be like,” Lee said. “We’re going to be ready for it. We’ve just got to stay loose and go compete.”
The Tigers will send Charlie Barnes to the mound to take on Bukauskas in the first game of the series, Friday (6:30 p.m.), with Alex Eubanks facing off against Luca Dalatri Saturday at 4 p.m.
The finale of the three game series will see Pat Krall taking on a pitcher to-be-determined for the Tar Heels, Sunday (1 p.m.).