When Clemson run ruled Coastal Carolina in Doug Kingsmore back on April 4, it signified the beginning of an impressive turnaround for Erik Bakich’s baseball team. The Tigers are 18-4 since the 16-6 victory and have gone from next to last in the ACC Atlantic standings to a legitimate threat to host an NCAA regional.
Clemson is fresh off a weekend sweep of Louisville and will now head to Conway for the second and final game of a home and home midweek series with the Chanticleers. Coastal took two out of three from App State last weekend after dropping a midweek game to Charlotte.
To call this a big game might be an understatement, as postseason implications are on the line for both ballclubs. The Chants are 19-9 at home, while Bakich’s team is 10-5 on the road and have played some of its best baseball away from home.
“We got to take this take the show on the road,” Bakich said. “We’re very accustomed to doing that and just having done that for back to back weeks at NC State and BC. So, nothing new there. Just another road trip.”
• Who – No. 13 Clemson (31-17) vs. No. 8 Coastal Carolina (30-16)
• When – Wednesday (6 p.m.)
• Where – Conway, S.C. (Springs Brooks Stadium)
• Watch – ESPN+
The Tigers will send left-handed hurler Tristan Smith to the mound, as the freshman will make his sixth start of the season. However, Smith has not started since the Georgia Tech series back in March, as he has been used exclusively as a reliever since. In 24.1 innings pitched, Smith sports an ERA of 5.50 with 34 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Coastal will counter with redshirt junior Will Smith. The right-hander will be making his first start of the season and comes in with an ERA of 7.52 in 26.1 innings, with 33 strikeouts and 21 walks.
With Clemson currently sitting at 14th in the RPI and the Chants at No. 12, Bakich knows what a win for his team would mean on Wednesday.
“We’ll have to earn everything that we get,” Bakich said. “We can’t overlook Coastal Carolina right now because they’ve obviously earned every accolade they’ve got this season and the rankings that they have. A very, very special group and we were fortunate to have success when we played them here last time but we know it’s going to be a battle.”
The impressive turnaround has seen the Tigers vault up to second place in the ACC Atlantic standings, as well as being firmly entrenched in the Top 25. However, the message Bakich has for his team is simple. While the accolades are nice, there is still much work to be done.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Bakich said. “We’re playing well, but we have to remember why we’re playing well and what our preparation is and our mindset is to play well and sell out to that because that’s what allows us to play well.”
“It’s nice to be recognized. It’s nice to read about our guys and the success they’re having, but the only ranking that matters, and I’m sure you guys hear this all the time, but the only rankings that matters is the last one. So we just need to keep our head down.”
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