Palmetto State rivals renew heated series

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COLUMBIA — Clemson coach Jack Leggett and South Carolina coach Ray Tanner say both teams have moved past accusations of bat warming and taunting that took place in last year’s series between them.

The Tigers and two-time defending national champion Gamecocks renew their series this weekend with games in Charleston, Columbia and Clemson. The teams play tonight at Riley Park, home of the Class A Yankees affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs.

The games in Charleston and Columbia are sellouts. Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium is also expected to be packed for the finale.

In a state without a major professional sports team, the diamond matchup of the Palmetto State’s two biggest rivals ranks second among supporters to the schools’ annual football game.

And there’s sure to be plenty of fans on both sides watching for a re-kindling of last year’s firestorm when Leggett had the bat of Gamecocks star Jackie Bradley Jr. checked. Leggett said he thought South Carolina was warming up bats.

“I don’t cheat. I don’t allow my players to cheat. We haven’t done anything wrong. We were called out a little bit,” Tanner said last year after the Gamecocks took two of three from Clemson.

Some feel that heating aluminum bats will make a ball travel farther when struck. But several Web sites dispute that theory.

Either way, Tanner said Thursday South Carolina has never had a bat warming device.

That wasn’t the only heated exchange between the teams.

Former Tiger player Will Lamb called the Gamecocks’ Tyler Webb a “soft pitcher.” South Carolina players rubbed their hands together mocking Clemson’s complaints.

After the series, Leggett and Tanner, the two longtime coaches who have been friendly through the years, patched things up and apologized to each other.

As far as Leggett’s concerned, “that’s water under the bridge,” he said.

That’s perfect with Tanner, who also wants this weekend’s focus on the ball field.

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