Clemson Super Regional Preview, Schedule & Anonymous Coach Scouting Reports


Image credit: Aidan Knaak (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Clemson Super Regional pits Clemson against Florida. The Tigers, the No. 6 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, swept through their regional to snap a streak of 10 straight NCAA Tournament appearances that ended with a loss in regionals. Clemson (44-14) has been gritty all season long and 25 of its wins have been comebacks. That’s made for some drama, but the Tigers always seem to find a way.

Florida, meanwhile, has been up and down all season. The Gators, last season’s national runners-up, started the season ranked in the top five and have some high-end series wins (Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Georgia), but have been unable to sustain success and were firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Florida (32-28) played well in Stillwater last weekend, however, and will now look to carry that momentum into Clemson.

As a subplot to the weekend, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan returns to Clemson, where he served as pitching coach from 1999-2007 before getting hired by the Gators. Clemson coach Erik Bakich overlapped on the Clemson staff for one year with O’Sullivan, as he served as the volunteer assistant coach in 2002, his first year of coaching. Jack Leggett, who was the Clemson head coach at the time, now serves on Bakich’s staff in a program development position. This weekend will provide a lot of familiarity between the two dugouts.

Here’s a look at the series schedule:

  • Saturday, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
  • Sunday, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Monday, TBD (if necessary)


Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan
Postseason history: 11th super regional (second straight). Seeking 14th trip to the College World Series and second straight.
Postseason route: No. 3 seed in Stillwater. Went 4-1, defeating Oklahoma State in regional final.

Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Gators)

“They weren’t playing well when we saw them. Who they are now is a little bit different. But you’ve got [Jac Caglianone] and some other guys. They’re a good baseball team. You want to say that Cags needs to go for them to go and there’s validity to that on both sides, on the mound and at the plate. But the tradition, the culture, the expectation of winning has put them in a position to be in a super regional.

“We were able to get in on [Caglianone] and soft away. But you have to execute. If you miss just a little bit, he wants to get arms extended and he will. Don’t go middle third, ‘cause he’ll get to that. If you go in and then soft away, you can be effective with it.

“You have to make [Caglianone] throw strikes. He’ll spray it a little bit; he doesn’t always get the breaking ball on the plate. He’s got to throw strikes and you’ve got to make him throw strikes with the secondary pitches. The fastball, there’s some teams he’ll beat with the fastball, other teams he’s not going to.

“What they did this past weekend is not something they’ve done this year at all from a consistent standpoint. You’ve got some talented guys that early weren’t doing well and now they’re doing well. They’re smelling it. They’re tough to beat regardless of their record and regardless of whether people say they should be in or not.

“They don’t necessarily have a bunch of guys in the lineup that are really scary. Coming into the super regional, they may be reliant on the home run. They’re such a Jekyll and Hyde club. Right now, it’s clicking. What we want as coaches is to be playing our best at the end of the year and they’re the definition of that. When you look and see what they did this weekend, they’re showing who everyone thought they were at the beginning of the year.

What Kevin O’Sullivan’s experience brings? “Twofold, you’ve got a very intense individual but at the same time he can be calming, getting guys to understand and coach them up. The players respect him for who he is and what he’s been through. But more than anything, he’s allowed them to be where they’re at. You’ve seen it over the years, teams that are supposed to be good, they’re not and then the coach blows up and it all falls apart. I don’t think Sully did that and he was able to finally get them to step up.”

Projected Lineup

C: Luke Heyman
1B: Jac Caglianone
2B: Cade Kurland
3B: Dale Thomas
SS: Colby Shelton
LF: Tyler Shelnut
CF: Michael Robertson
RF: Ashton Wilson
DH: Brody Donay
SP: Liam Peterson
SP: Jac Caglianone
SP: Pierce Coppola
RP: Fisher Jameson
RP: Brandon Neely


Coach: Erik Bakich
Postseason history: 10th super regional (first since 2010). Seeking 13th trip to the College World Series and first since 2010.
Postseason route: No. 1 seed in Clemson. Went 3-0, defeating Coastal Carolina in regional final.

Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Tigers)

“The strength of their pitching is in their depth. Aidan Knaak has that outlier splitty changeup. It’s an outlier pitch. Austin Gordon is a little sporadic. It looks like they try to finish with Gordon. We knew they could finish with a number of different guys in the bullpen; there wasn’t one consistent path that they would try to use to finish games. I found that interesting because most teams try to go one way.

“I haven’t seen Florida play, but in all of my experience going to Clemson, if you can’t defend in the infield, that field will chew you up because it’s hard, it’s fast, the ball gets on you. It’s a very unique infield to play. I thought we’d seen fast infields, but we’d go there and it was faster than anything. They were fielding .966 earlier this year [it’s .968 now], but I feel like that’s pretty good just because of how challenging it is. If Florida goes in and plays good infield defense, that’s where the separator is.

“When we went in there, I was expecting [the offensive gameplan] to be more sporadic. You see them bunt, you see them hit homers, you see them steal bases. But it’s not as non-traditional as you think. They’ll bunt when it’s first and second and their eight-hole hitter is up. They’ll swing when there’s a runner on and it’s their three-hole hitter. It seemed to be more traditional baseball than we had anticipated. They just try to play to their strengths.

“The running game, if you pay attention to it you can quiet it, not shut it off. What we saw is if you don’t pay attention, they can blow it up. If Florida doesn’t pay attention, they’ll get burned. It’s an offensive park so you have to limit free passes rolling in there. There’s just going to be some home runs hit in that series.

“I think [their veteran roster] plays a lot. This is year two with Erik, so they’re certainly more comfortable. They had a good year last year, they had a good year this year, you can see them gaining confidence. You look at the Knaak kid and he’s young, but he didn’t look like a freshman to me. He did not buckle like a first-year kid. That probably has to do with the older guys that are around him; they give the younger players that they do have a bubble.

“I’ve been going to Clemson for a long time—those fans are going to be yelling at somebody. They’re going to be yelling at the opponent if Clemson’s winning and they’re yelling at their own team and the officials if the opponent is winning. You can’t quiet the crowd but you can redirect them, which is unique to some other places.”

Projected Lineup

C: Jimmy Obertop
1B: Jack Crighton
2B: Jarren Purify
3B: Blake Wright
SS: Jacob Hinderleider
LF: Tristan Bissetta
CF: Cam Cannarella
RF: Alden Mathes
DH: Jacob Jarrell
SP: Tristan Smith
SP: Aidan Knaak
SP: Ethan Darden
RP: Austin Gordon
RP: Lucas Mahlstedt

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