Alabama and Clemson are playing solid brands of baseball at the right time.
The Crimson Tide were on the verge of missing the SEC tournament at one point this season. But now the Tide are one of the hottest teams in America. Clemson, meanwhile, played very well in the Auburn Regional last weekend and has its sights set on reaching the College World Series.
Something must give in a series that features two hot teams. This series appears to be dead even entering the weekend.
|Clemson Super Regional: Who has the edge?|
Clemson and Alabama enter the weekend with very similar pitching staffs. There are times when both teams can pitch at a high level. There also are times when both teams leave something to be desired on the mound.
This weekend, though, go ahead and give the advantage to Alabama.
The Crimson Tide can thank Jimmy Nelson and Nathan Kilcrease for that. Both pitchers have been very solid the past few weeks.
Nelson is 8-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 103 1/3 innings. He has struck out 94 and walked 28, and opponents are hitting him at a .256 clip. Kilcrease, meanwhile, was a big-time pitcher in the Atlanta Regional last week and has a 2.42 ERA in 93 innings. Teams are hitting Kilcrease at just a .208 clip.
Also watch for starting pitcher Adam Morgan in addition to David Head, Brett Whitaker and Jake Smith.
Morgan has a 5.52 ERA in 88 innings, while Head has a 4.91 ERA in 22 innings and Whitaker has a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings. Smith, meanwhile, has appeared in 12 games and has a 0.98 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.
For the Tigers, keep a close watch on starting pitchers Casey Harman, Scott Weismann and Will Lamb in addition to relievers Kevin Brady, Alex Frederick and David Haselden.
Harman has a 3.95 ERA in 100 1/3 innings. He has struck out 86 and walked 31, and teams are hitting just .239 against him. Weismann has a 5.13 ERA in 86 innings and teams are hitting .270 against him, while Lamb has a 4.96 ERA in 49 innings and teams are hitting .289 against him.
Brady has made 20 appearances and has a 4.00 ERA in 36 innings. Frederick has appeared in 28 games with a 4.12 ERA in 54 2/3 innings, and Haselden has appeared in 20 games and has a 4.66 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
Overall, it will be interesting to see if Alabama's starting pitchers can continue their impressive streak this weekend.
Alabama certainly has improved at the plate the past few weeks, but Clemson put on a show at the Auburn Regional and has a better offensive lineup.
The Crimson Tide enters the weekend with a .298 batting average. Clemson, meanwhile, enters the series with a .306 batting average.
For the Tigers, keep a close eye on Brad Miller, Kyle Parker, John Hinson, Mike Freeman and Jeff Schaus.
Miller is hitting .365 with 18 doubles, seven homers and 41 RBIs, Parker, a high pick in the MLB draft earlier this week, is hitting .356 with 15 doubles, 20 homers and 63 RBIs, Hinson is hitting .341 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs, Freeman is hitting .330 with 22 doubles, eight homers and 55 RBIs and Schaus is hitting .313 with 15 homers and 80 RBIs.
The Tigers enter the Clemson Super Regional with 87 homers.
For the Crimson Tide, keep an eye on Taylor Dugas, Josh Rutledge and Clay Jones.
Dugas has been fantastic this season and is hitting a team-best .393 with 15 doubles, five triples and 36 RBIs. He also has a fabulous .530 on-base percentage and is 19-for-24 in stolen bases.
Rutledge is hitting .365 with 16 doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 69 RBIs, and Jones is hitting .329 with 14 doubles, 17 homers and 65 RBIs.
Also watch for Ross Wilson and Jake Smith, who have eight and 13 homers, respectively, entering the weekend.
There's a solid chance this series is loaded with runs.
If there's one thing the Crimson Tide does much better than Clemson, it's taking care of business in the field.
The Crimson Tide has put together an impressive .978 fielding percentage. Clemson, meanwhile, enters the series with just a .963 fielding percentage.
For the Crimson Tide, first baseman Clay Jones has a .994 fielding percentage. Second baseman Ross Wilson has a .971 fielding percentage. Shortstop Josh Rutledge has a .939 fielding percentage. Third baseman Jake Smith has a .950 fielding percentage, and catcher Brock Bennett has a .991 fielding percentage.
For the Tigers, first baseman Richie Shaffer has a perfect fielding percentage. Second baseman Mike Freeman has a .973 fielding percentage. Shortstop Brad Miller has a .904 fielding percentage. Third baseman John Hinson has a .929 fielding percentage, and catcher Spencer Kieboom has a perfect fielding percentage.
Clemson must be more consistent in the field to advance to the College World Series.
Alabama, meanwhile, needs to continue business as usual.
Clemson is used to playing in big-time situations with coach Jack Leggett in charge. But for Alabama's Mitch Gaspard, a super regional series, as a head coach at least, is a new experience.
How Gaspard prepares his team for the series is an intriguing storyline.
The Tigers definitely appear to have the edge in the coaching and experience categories.
Something else to remember is that Clemson is hosting the series.
There was plenty of controversy earlier in the week when the NCAA decided to give the super regional to the Tigers. However, it seemed to make at least some sense when it became public knowledge that CU offered several thousand more dollars in its bid to host the super regional.
The decision by Alabama not to put in a lucrative super regional bid could cost Gaspard and his team, as Clemson has a raucous home atmosphere and a 27-8 record at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
All the intangibles point Clemson's direction.