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SUPER REGIONAL PREVIEW: CLEMSON AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
June 7, 2007

SCS.comCLEMSON AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

THE MATCHUP

Clemson and Mississippi State both won regionals as #2 seeds this past weekend. The Tigers were the second seed at the Myrtle Beach Regional and went 3-0, defeating St. Johnís, then top seeded Coastal Carolina twice (11-8 and 15-3) to advance to Super Regional play. Mississippi State went on the road to the Tallahassee Regional and swept through it, defeating Stetson on day one, then top seeded and #6 national seed Florida State twice (3-0 and 9-4) to advance to their first super since 2001, and their first ever at home.

THE VENUE

Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium is one of the most renowned college baseball facilities in the country. Itís known for its capacity and its atmosphere, including the famous Left Field Lounge. Dudy Noble holds the highest single-game, on-campus attendance record at 14,991, and holds a number of spots on regular season and postseason record charts. This year marks the first time the stadium has hosted a super regional, and the first time itís hosted any postseason action since 2003.

BREAKING IT DOWN

Starting Pitching
Clemson will likely go with Daniel Moskos and David Kopp in the first two games, while Mississippi State will send Chad Crosswhite and Justin Pigott to the mound. If there is a game three, the likely matchup will be D.J. Mitchell or Ryan Hinson for Clemson vs. Josh Johnson for MSU. The Tigers have the edge in talent in the rotation, but the MSU pitching has been improving throughout the second half of the season. Their trio showed its potential in Tallahassee, when it held the powerful FSU lineup to only four runs and nine hits in two games. Moskos and Kopp are both going to be high draft picks this week, but in Crosswhite and Pigott, MSU has two guys that, when at their best, can beat the best in the nation. ThatĎs where this matchup evens out.
Advantage: Even
Hitting
Clemson has had its struggles offensively at times, but scored 26 runs in two games against Coastal Carolina, and pounded five homers in those two matchups. The Tigers have the edge in the power department, but MSU smacked four homers over the weekend themselves. State was one of the nationís top hitting teams for the better part of the season, but petered off at the end due to injuries and inconsistency. But, with star freshman Brandon Turner (.400) finally healthy and the emergence of freshman Russ Sneed in the regionals, MSUís bats were productive this past weekend. Clemsonís 3-4-5 of Marquez Smith, Andy DíAlessio, and Taylor Harbin have superior numbers, but MSUís own trio of Johnny Bench finalist Ed Easley, Mitch Moreland, and Brian LaNinfa are all consistent producers. And both teams have stars at the leadoff position, with Clemsonís Brad Chalk and MSUís Jeffrey Rea, who broke the schoolís record for hits while in Tallahassee.
Advantage: Even
Out of the Pen
Clemson has the edge in depth out of the pen. The Tigers can count on a number of guys to come in to do the job late, with the top relievers being Alan Farina, Stephen Clyne, and Matt Vaughn. Moskosí move to the rotation didnít affect Clemsonís depth in the bullpen, as those guys, and a list of others, can log innings behind the starters. MSUís bullpen duties usually come down to starter-turned-reliever Aaron Weatherford, the previously mentioned Moreland, junior John Lalor, and freshman Ricky Bowen, but thatís a pretty reliable quartet to turn the ball over to late. Lalor and Weatherford can log extra innings if need be, Bowen is best in the late innings, and Moreland, as fearsome as he can be at the plate, is even more so in the ninth.
Advantage: Even
Coaching
Mississippi State and Clemson can boast two of the best coaches in the business. MSUís Ron Polk has led three different schools to seven total appearances in Omaha, making him one of only three coaches to do that. He is approaching 1,350 career wins as a head coach. Clemsonís Jack Leggett passed 1,000 wins this season, and is trying to lead the Tigers to their sixth CWS appearance under him.
Advantage: Even
Intangibles
This is the first time since 1997 that MSU has the chance to clinch a berth to Omaha at home. The players know whatís at stake, and so do the fans, who will pack the park, despite early start times. The home crowd and high stakes will no doubt bring out the best in the home team. Clemsonís in their third straight super regional, so theyíre no stranger to being here.
Advantage: MSU

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sure, ClemsonĎs got the talent edge, but overall, youĎve got to mark this down as a pretty even matchup. Itís certainly a surprising one, if you look back at the preseason prognostications. While Clemson is where they were projected to be, Mississippi State was picked to finish dead last in the SEC. Despite a late-season stretch that took them out of the hosting picture, the Bulldogs have played well above expectations this season. They know what theyíre capable of, so despite any lack of experience compared to Clemson, theyíll be ready to play on Friday.
But even as the road team, the Tigers will be tough to beat if they play like they did in those last two games over Coastal Carolina. The issue with Clemson is consistency. At this point in the season, they canít afford to let the things that plagued them during the regular season get in their way again. As for MSU, their key is to play like the team that got to 31-12, and the team that swept through the Tallahassee Regional. With those late-season issues behind them and a stadium full of maroon-clad fans, itís hard to bet against State this weekend to stake their place as one of the best of the best again, even with the laundry list of stars Clemson has thatís just as intent on proving something themselves.

PREDICTION TIME

Eddie Jimmy Jonathan
Mississippi State Mississippi State Mississippi State
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